ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

TRAVEL AND INSURANCE FINDING SALES PROFESSIONALS OUTSIDE THE INDUSTRY

For many years we have equated the travel business with insurance. We share a very large pool of prospects. People WANT to travel – they MUST HAVE insurance. So travel is a positive industry while insurance is neutral at best and is often a negative experience (somewhat akin to the funeral business). Travel agencies have declined by attrition of old-fashioned travel agents in brick-and-mortar businesses while a new generation of travel agents has risen to provide services and relationships using the Internet, social networking and automated systems (CRM – Customer Relationship Management) to replace the last generation’s travel business.

And the comparison doesn’t stop there.

Travel Weekly is a blog used by the travel industry. In its January, 2016 issue it discussed the topic of the travel industry’s search for new hires and the quote, below echoes our feelings about finding producers for the insurance industry. The travel industry is quite complex with many choices available at different price breaks and different benefits. However, the travel industry is finding that hiring people with qualified sales skills is preferable to hiring travel professionals who understand the industry but can’t relate to the traveling public. They are often founts of knowledge, but can’t close, leaving the traveler free to use their own choice of means of booking travel after learning all the details from the travel professional.

For years we have been asking agents to find sales professionals and to train them into the insurance products in order to guarantee successful, long term producers for their agencies. And, for years, the agencies continue to find journeymen insurance professionals who take the same book of business from agency to agency for five years at a time. The agency thinks it’s hiring a producer. But, instead, it is becoming the home for a producer’s book of business until such time that the producer moves again. The agencies also search for insurance professionals who know the products, hoping that their product knowledge will translate into sales. Most often, this doesn’t work, either.

If you want sales professionals, hire folks who can demonstrate sales success in other industries. Train them into the products they will need to understand to meet the insurance needs of the agency’s target markets. The producer will already understand that the key element of his job is to build tight, trust relationships with people the agency does not yet insure. Once the trust is justified, providing the products and services needed becomes an important detail that can be supplemented with other experience in the agency.

“They’re looking now outside of the industry,” she said. “As far as they’re concerned, it’s easier to find someone who’s got the skill set, not necessarily the travel experience. They can always teach the travel industry. They can’t teach them to sell, so they’re looking for qualified sales people.”

Kathryn Mazza-Burney, Exec. VP of Sales for Travelsavers and NEST (Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel).