In the world of sales, there is an ongoing challenge of innovation and concern that progress has been stymied not only by a demanding regulatory environment, but an aging workforce and the speed of technological change itself.

Our own analysis of the situation is reminiscent of Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: If a body is at rest it remains at rest or, if it is in motion, it moves with uniform velocity, until it is acted on by a resultant force. Sounds right, and here’s why.

Tackling the Speed of Change

Take new online business models for example. Driven initially by the economic downturn and the need to provide new, more profitable levels of customer service, these have only further intensified the competition for premiums. In the same way that technology, including mobile apps and self-service Websites, have revolutionized production models, so too must we manage the effectiveness of agents and service representatives in wholly new ways. But that’s not happening – yet.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the needs of consumers and others are beginning to stall the trend of online buying ignited by some of the largest P&C insurers in the last decade. Under the guise of saving the consumer money, these models mostly bypassed traditional interactions with agents/reps at the click of a button. Yet when consumers don’t find the experience – or cost savings – of online options as compelling as advertised, they turn to their trusted insurance agent for assistance.

This means that reps need to add value like never before, demanding a new set of selling skills that are less transactional, and more consultative. Yet despite all best (traditional) approaches, a serious “knowing vs. doing” gap remains. According to research by AchieveGlobal, only 15% of agents/reps will be successful at applying new skills on the job, even after extensive training. The research also shows that it can take an average 18-20 months for new info/skills/change to become ingrained in large sales teams. So says Newton, a new “force” is needed to drive velocity of change. But that’s not all.

Winning the Hearts and Minds of Millennials

Today there are roughly 2.3 million workers in the U.S. insurance industry. Nearly half of these will retire in 10 years or less, leaving this enormous market with a major talent gap.

The dual challenges of dealing with skills shortages as many older workers retire, and of building a more age-diverse workforce are therefore front and center in the minds of business leaders, sales managers and trainers alike.

Across most industries, we’ve heard much about the challenges of onboarding this impending Millennial (Generation Y) workforce. But in insurance, the challenge is compounded by their ability to even attract Millennials. While generations of professionals have established successful, long-term careers within the insurance industry, it’s just, well, not that sexy to this new generation.

To succeed, the insurance industry – its trainers, in particular – need to speak the language of their new workforce, and this, too, represents a need for speed when it comes to change. This “language” includes mobile, social, collaboration, and always-on simplicity. Approaches to enabling them must start here, representing a radical departure from the infrequent, face-to-face training events which are still the norm.

Engaging Users to Win

It’s no surprise then that engagement continues to be a real problem for insurance trainers. At the conference, there was tremendous buzz about the use of game mechanics, and why game-based approaches can be so successful in engaging sales reps. This challenge, however, is not unique to the insurance industry. Sales organizations across all categories are in search of solutions designed to keep their reps in the field tapped into critical sales initiatives.

As one of the features of Qstream’s mobile sales performance platform, we see game-based elements, such as leaderboards, incredibly powerful in keeping reps excited to answer challenges and compete with peers, effectively reinforcing selling skills and critical knowledge in just minutes a day.

Securing Support for Change

Within large, traditional insurance organizations, velocity of change requires not only forward-thinking vision, but a process for gaining management support and resources. Qstream’s powerful analytics offers these organizations real-time insight, providing key data on how sales agents are performing, identifying knowledge gaps and their potential impact on production. Without this, it's difficult to make a business case. Having this data allows insurance trainers to remain a truly valuable asset to their organization, bringing new light to the importance of the investment in sales training.

As we’ve witnessed in other markets, technology is changing the insurance buying process entirely, and it’s critical for insurance companies to adopt new technologies and best practices that support sales success in this new environment. We see an enormous opportunity to help insurance leaders reach the next level of sales performance.

To learn more how Qstream is being used to address the changing needs of insurance workforces, download this case study.

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