Insurance Sales Management: How to make the transition from sales rep to team leader

Insurance Sales Management: How to make the transition from sales rep to team leader

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Trying to set up a vibrant team and concurrently satisfy the boss may be a maddening experience for team leaders especially sales managers.

by Langton Gombiro

While this challenge is common in any working environment in the insurance industry or any other industry, it may not be a walk in the park; especially for an ill-exposed team leader and or one without self-drive.

The greatest challenge on the list of the functions of a team leader especially in insurance sales management is that, customers are increasingly becoming more informed – due to competition explosion and online competitive informative information -, demanding and price sensitive.

On top of this rep-per-team leader ratios are steadily increasing and consistently expanding the team leaders’ scope of supervision whilst the workload multiplies; training and administrative support for team leaders are decreasing because of increasing budget constraints; pressures on team leaders to produce sales results is rising sharp and new management techniques and trainings are required for the team leader.

This volatile mix-up may present a host of perplexities for some if not all team leaders and may eventually have a negative bearing on production timelines.

This then becomes a paradox madam, that is, at a point when a team leader (sales manager) is being expected to do better and better, when he/she have less and less to work with. This in many ways has a high chance of decreasing the team leaders’ ability to produce and effectively lead high flying sales teams.

Being a team leader is a daunting task especially so for someone who is transitioning from being a sales rep to a team leader. The loss of independence, freedom and space might hinder the person to achieve good results in a team. Team leaders unlike sales reps are required to deliver good numbers for the whole team not just for themselves.

As such when a good sales rep is elevated or exalted to a managerial position. The transition may be an endless dark corridor pregnant with confusion and uncertainty especially if there is no proper transition training or orientation. This by nature chokes the coming in of the much awaited figures (results).

So if one is to successfully make a transition from being a good sales rep to a good team leader requires a change in mind-set.  Sales reps have to shed away some characteristics that made them super reps and adopt new ones to make super teams, because the traits that make someone a great sales rep don’t always seamlessly translate into great leadership.

Despite the fact the shift from being a sales rep to a sales manager may not always go smoothly, there are ways to abate the strain. Use the following tips to help you become a successful team leader:

Loss of Freedom – a good agent has the freedom to set a daily schedule, come and go, be in the office when necessary and his/her sole responsibility is making sales. When he/she relocates to a team leader, freedom is replaced with responsibility— the team leader takes on the burdens of sales reps and bosses. A team leader is bound by increased paperwork, team objectives, increased deadlines, and directives. They discover that they have significantly less autonomy than they did as a salesperson.

Inability to teach – the assumption that agents that can sell, therefore can teach it when they become leaders is wrong.  The bottom line is that salespeople are doers, not teachers. It takes a huge amount of self-discipline, energy, and patience to analyze one’s steps to success and convey them effectively to subordinates.

deferred gratification – Agents work hard to make a sale and sees the outcome immediately. The team leader sees outcomes over weeks, maybe months. Management takes a huge amount of patience, a virtue in short supply among most agents.

Unrealistic expectations –  the team leader (sales manager) was successful as a rep so he/she expect the same from his/her people. As a sales rep, he/she had an “I can do it” approach to challenges. You did, in fact, do it, and achieved success. Your success gave you expectations for your performance as a salesperson that consistently led to success. Unfortunately, the set of conditions that made you successful as a salesperson do not exist in sales management. You can’t expect your people to be like you or as successful as you. If your expectations don’t change, disappointment quickly sets in.

Tendency to do it yourself – as a sales rep, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Sometimes, this thinking leads team leaders to micromanage; even to the point of selling for their agents, it breeds wrong disciples. For the team leader, it means less time managing.

For the agent, it means frustration and fewer opportunities to become a recognised sales person. In sales management team leaders simply can’t do it themselves. You

They have to do virtually everything through your people, and that can be frustrating.

Independent nature of salespeople versus managers’ dependence on salespeople to reach goals – As a sales leader, its no longer a lone ranger shooting’ all way to success. As the leader he/she is now a star general in the war room coordinating troop movements. The success is now dependent on team.

Tendency to “sell” instead of facilitate – There is a tendency for just elevated to come onboard with a dozen preconceived concepts and begin selling them to their new “customers”— their sales team and their bosses. Essentially, the temptation to continue selling is high.

Unfortunately, the conditions and dynamics of managing a sales team are totally different. Now, it’s more important to become a facilitator instead of a salesperson. The team leader is no longer the lone wolf who has to come up with the Big Idea and sell it, but rather the person who extracts Big Ideas for the sales team and helps them sell it. This requires a change in mind-set from continuous selling to coordinating.

Langton Gombiro is a holder of Bcom (Marketing), and is currently studying towards a Masters in Marketing. He also holds an IMM Higher Diploma, LCCI Diploma and is a Certified life coach. Langton is currently employed as a sales manager (team leader) at one of the well established Life Assurance brands in Zimbabwe.  Langton specialises in  insurance marketing; its functions, distribution channels, and various marketing acrobatics. He can be contacted on mktdrive@yahoo.com or +263783 769 689

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