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NOVEMBER 2010

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How to Juggle Effectively

The Secret to Being a Successful Sales Manager
and Stay Sane

Juggling the dual role of manager and salesperson can drive you crazy. If you are a “sales manager” wondering how it’s possible, you can stop wondering … here’s how to do it.

Middle management in the life insurance business is often required to not only build a unit of new recruits, but also to grow an existing business. It’s not an easy task and, frankly, can drive you to distraction and slow production. I bet sometimes you feel it’s just about impossible to accomplish.

You’re not alone. I get dozens of calls every month about this management/sales dilemma, so fortunately I can help you. In my last agency, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best managers in the industry. Together, we discovered a way to juggle both jobs that made a lot of sense and in the end helped generate a lot of money. It can work for you, too.

The problem with this juggling act is that you’re dealing with two seemingly contradictory roles: one to recruit, select, train, develop and supervise new people into your organization; the other to prospect, sell and service a block of business.

It’s two full-time jobs in one. What it takes to be a good sales person is not the same as what it takes to be a good manager. How can anyone do both successfully at the same time? Rather than juggling two balls, you make them one.

If you, as a sales manager, make your business a “sales business model” that you want your new recruits to emulate, you’ll find that everything can work together — even smoothly. (Hey, nothing works all the time. I remember what it’s like.) But with this strategy, you have a fighting chance. Do it right and you’ll have the best job in the business.

So, here’s the secret:

  1. Prospect for personal sales, and select and recruit and while doing so.
  2. Sell to your prospects, and recruit and train while doing so.
  3. Service your block of business, and develop and supervise while doing so.

When you use your own sales business as a model for those you want recruit and develop, you have the ideal “showroom.” Your business is the “factory” that generates leads, candidates, recruits and success.

When you set yourself up this way, you will also perform at your best and do the best for your clients. You will live up to their expectations of you, and to your own. This strategy works on many levels; it  actually makes your job easier and the business more profitable. You’ll sell more to higher quality clients because you are looking for the right kind of recruit to take on the advisor role. While trying to impress recruits enough to join you, you sell better. You’ll also create a better block of business because you are looking for a specific, high-quality target.

One of the most important benefits of this approach is that when you sell a candidate first, you know you have a believer. Belief in the product is significantly undervalued as a determinant of future success. Believers are achievers.

This strategy also makes recruit selection more successful because your candidates see exactly what they are going to do and what it takes to do it. They see both the good and the bad. They can make an informed decision about how their talents stack up against the requirements. Training and development are easier too because you do it almost incidentally as you go about your sales business. It all works together.

You’ll also stand out in the marketplace by doing something quite rare today — actual training as opposed to education dressed up for the occasion. Training is in the field with live prospects; education is in the office, learning and pretending. The word will get out and you will build a reputation as the person to join.

There is no better way to develop a good advisor than in the real world. Conversely, there is no better way to discover if that person is the right person for the job. Job sampling is more necessary today than ever before. It allows candidates to choose the business for themselves, which is one of the best determinants of future success, not to mention advisor retention.

If you’re a senior manager choosing new sales managers, this strategy will help you pick winners more often. You’ll look for people who know what to do and who you’d want to clone in your organization.

You will also have a better idea of the sort of advisor you are recruiting because he or she will usually be like the sales manager. You get consistent training and development in a style you already know. Your organization retention will grow and your net gain will improve. It really is an ideal system.

Creating a sales team where everyone works in a similar, approved fashion helps build team spirit and efficiency. It makes it easier to supervise and train your advisors. Best of all, it eliminates the apparent contradictions of “sales management.” You use your sales talent and management know-how to build a select team of professionals that reflect your strengths and abilities. When you do it this way, everyone wins.

Jim Ruta
GAMA Director and Productivity and Performance Consultant

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