When we place high-achiever Business-to-Business (B2B) sales people in careers with our clients, the country’s top commercial risk management and insurance brokers, we tell them that they will need to jump over three big transition hurdles at the beginning.
The First Hurdle: The Technical Learning Curve
The first hurdle is the technical learning curve. There’s a lot to learn in the commercial risk management and insurance industry. You need to keep abreast of changes in the world and how to manage new and changing risks. You need to apply general risk management principles and insurance coverages to specific businesses. You will NEVER be done learning. While this may sound daunting, the technical learning curve is perhaps the EASY one of the three transition hurdles! As a new producer, you can’t learn it all quickly so you need to lean on and leverage the vast knowledge of others in your agency/brokerage. If you bring the smarts and intellectual curiosity to learn the commercial insurance business and you enjoy the challenge of continuous learning, you will be just fine.
The Second Hurdle: Prospecting Volume
The second hurdle is the sheer heavy volume of prospecting required to build the pipeline and the foundation of a clientele (or “book of business” as it’s more commonly known). How does a new producer go about solving this prospecting challenge? Typically, you will start with your local business and personal network. You will call previous clients and prospects. No new producer ever has enough prospects so you will develop centers of influence (accountants, lawyers, bankers, etc.) who can help you get in front of their clients. You find out what your firm is great at and go after those types of business. You self-generate leads and start cold calling. This isn’t joyful but it’s fundamental new business development activity and hard work that needs to be done.
The Third Hurdle: Getting Them to Fire Their Agent
The third hurdle is getting a prospect to fire the incumbent agent/broker so that they can hire you. Unless it’s a start-up business, every prospect that you, the new producer, calls already has a commercial insurance broker or agent and it’s not you! The incumbent agent/broker often has a strong home field relationship advantage and they will not surrender easily to a new producer trying to steal their client. The incumbent broker will fight back — hard. New insurance producers need to be prepared for a back-alley knife fight with the incumbent broker to win the client’s business. The legendary Randy Schwantz’s book “The Wedge: How to Stop Selling and Start Winning” is the primer on how to overcome this challenge. It’s the hardest challenge a new producer faces. It’s also the one that’s typically underestimated by new producers.
How New Insurance Producers Can Clear These Hurdles
Besides reading Randy’s book and taking his sales training course to learn how to drive “the Wedge” in between the prospect and the incumbent broker, here are 7 practical tips to overcome the new producer hurdles. Each tip is designed to flip the disadvantages of being the “new, inexperienced” producer into advantages against the “old, experienced” producers you must defeat.
- Prospect like crazy. Consider that unlike the “old, experienced” producers, you have the luxury of time, that is, you are unburdened with clients to serve and you can focus 100% of your effort on new business development! Block daily time for prospecting calls – at least one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon – and chances are you will get in front of more prospects and create more business opportunity than the seasoned, complacent producers at your competitors who are resting on their laurels and renewal books.
- Work a 50 to 60 hour week. If you commit to this work ethic grind for the first 5 years as a new commercial producer, you will pay yourself a dividend for the subsequent 25+ years in this career. Hard work alone won’t close the deal but you can and should outwork the “old, experienced” producers.
- Broaden and “age up” your value proposition. Bring the agency owners and experienced producers with you and make it a team sales appointment. Broaden your sales approach to show your prospect the collective wisdom, experience, and value-added services of your firm.
- Go after niche markets. Become the master of a few specialty segments. It’s easier to flatten the learning curve and to know how to properly manage and insure the risks in a particular industry versus flailing as a newbie generalist. It’s also a better path toward developing referrals and centers of influence.
- Use LinkedIn. Many “old, experienced” producers are clueless about how to leverage the extraordinary power of this business networking and prospecting tool.
- Ask great questions. Use the silver lining of being the “new, inexperienced” producer — fresh eyes, ears and thinking — to ask prospects insightful questions about their business. The “old, experienced” producers may fall back on routine and fail to ask the right questions to uncover hidden problems and emerging risks.
- Focus on emerging risks. For example, cyber risk and data breach are emerging risks that scare business owners. The “old, experienced” producers may struggle with how to properly manage and insure these risks. That’s a door opening for new insurance producers. Prospects may actually perceive you as being more fresh and relevant with understanding and managing these new technology related risks.