If you look at one of the great backwaters of the selling profession, it has to be the insurance industry.
It hasn’t altered its recruiting and training practices for a century, and it is unlikely to do so anytime soon, because its very product is risk aversion.
Insurance, as everyone knows, is about pooling risk. Actuaries work long and hard to determine how many claims will be filed during a given period, and then they adjust rates to reflect those risks and to garner a certain profit.
When it comes to recruiting new agents, actuarial thinking also comes into play.
Knowing that a certain percentage will wash out, insurance executives do what they can to minimize the costs of these “accidents,” these “claims” against profits, if you will.
So, they shift the cost of failure to the trainees themselves by offering straight commission positions or the tiniest subsidies they can get away with offering.
For example, one company will not pay for its new Life and Health agents’ licensing training, right away.
They’ll reimburse the fees, but only after the newbie has earned $6,400 in commissions.
But the training only costs about $300- $500!
How many recruits do they discourage from ever signing on because of this stinginess? It’s hard to tell, but definitely some.
Insurance companies are notoriously weak when it comes to recruiting successful salespeople from other fields, because they believe, without substantiation, that insurance selling is unique, and that success in other fields is not transferable.
So, they won’t pay a top earner from, say, a mortgage brokerage business to move into insurance. That person will have to do exactly the same things at the same rates of pay as complete novices, a decade or more their junior.
The inbreeding in the insurance field is not an embarrassment, as it should be, but is underscored as a strength.
Companies will boast, “Every one of our executives started as a field agent!” without realizing this is an indictment, one of the primary reasons new ideas in selling and in motivation, compensation, and management find it so hard to penetrate this industry.
No wonder the biggest threats to conventional companies and their profits are coming from upstarts that are dispensing with typical agents and salespeople, opting instead for
“direct” marketing models.
Look for this trend to continue as long as the old guard insists on using the dead hand of the past to steer its course.
Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books, over 600 articles, and the creator of numerous audio and video training programs, including “The Law of Large Numbers: How To Make Success Inevitable,” published by Nightingale-Conant-a favorite among salespeople and entrepreneurs. For information about booking Gary to speak at your next sales, customer service or management meeting, conference or convention, please address your inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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