ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

Understanding Employee Personalities Part II

The commercial salesperson

Commercial salespersons are individually competitive risk takers. They tend to view all goals as attainable, may sometimes assume more responsibility than they can handle and often are hampered by tunnel vision in the pursuit of their goals. They are fact oriented and possess strong questioning natures. They solve the problems necessary to close a sale and enjoy handling multiple projects thriving on variety and change.

They are uncomfortable with routine, are somewhat cooperative and detail oriented. Commercial salespeople are listeners, respecters of protocol and, while detail-minded, are not perfectionists. They can delegate and self-manage.

Commercial sales personalities sell by problem solving, gathering the facts and details to present a proposal. They sell in and environment where price and coverage are important; where the bottom line is more crucial than the seller's personality. The commercial salesperson services an existing need rather than convincing a client of a need.

The "commercial sales" profile predominates among agency principals. Fifty-two percent of insurance principal profiles are the "commercial sales" type, 15% have the "underwriter's" profile and 13% possess other profile patterns, according to a review of several hundred profiles performed by our corporation.

Commercial sales personalities are reluctant sellers of health and life products because their fact-oriented personality is not attuned to sales that may require persuasion or "creating a need" to close the deal. On the other hand, the insurance company's marketing representative usually has a "health/life" personality that finds it easy to create a need. This difference between the company personality and the agency principal often results in a strained relationship. The problem occurs quite frequently because fact-oriented personalities- the "commercial salesperson" and the "underwriter"-account for 67% of all agency principals.

The health/life salesperson

This personality is the unique one in insurance. Whereas the commercial sales, CSR, inside sales and sales underwriter all are fact-oriented, no-nonsense types. this personality is a genuine people-oriented one. Health/life salespersons see others as extensions of themselves and are more inclined to touch, engage in conversation with strangers and invade the personal space of others. Fact-oriented types often view them as "strange". They never say the things people-oriented people say or act in such an upbeat, friendly manner. The fact-oriented person is apt to be a natural skeptic, often suspicious of these eternal optimists. Some fact-oriented principals readily admit a discomfort with this personality type.

Health/life personalities are driven by a need for autonomy and responsibility. They are impatient, and enjoy variety, change and juggling many tasks at once. They are independent and self[critical decision-makers. Health/life personalities see the big picture. They can delegate details to others and prefer to write the book rather than follow it.

These personalities sell by convincing the customer of an need, they do not seek facts, are sometimes poor listeners and don't like to deal with details. Therefore, they generally are less successful selling commercial insurance (and some forms of personal lines) where price and coverage are critical. They have difficulty obtaining facts, reviewing details and researching product lines necessary to formulate proposals. These tasks often are left to agency underwriters or brokers. This inability to develop proposals, or make changes when confronted by the business owner at the presentation, is a disadvantage. The commercial sales or underwriter personality, because of his or her factual and detail-oriented nature, is better equipped to make changes or suggest more effective coverage during presentations. Thus he or she is seen by the business owner as more effective in providing immediate account servicing.

People with health/life personalities are valuable to an agency because they obtain the very profitable business that the fact-oriented, commercial insurance sales personality has trouble closing. Good health/life salespeople are hard to find. Without behavioral profiling, the agency principal never can be sure of the candidate is "all talk" (the desire to be liked often exceeds the desire to achieve) or of he or she is truly driven to be the best.

The underwriter

Good underwriters are similar to good CSRs, but the behavioral pattern is more extreme. Underwriters deal in a world of fact and detail only and must have 120% of all information on hand prior to making decisions.

The underwriter personality is security oriented. Its goals are perhaps loftier than those of CSRs. but they are safe goals. The underwriter personality is not comfortable in a sales role where the risk of rejection exists. This personality is very skeptical and analytical and prefers to work alone. These individuals are routine oriented and sensitive to change: family and teams are important. They prefer to methodically complete one task at a time and tend to "nit pick" and examine every contingency prior to making a final decision. Thus, they are excellent followers of the rules, policies and regulations. They reason that round pegs fit only into round holes; therefore, exceptions to coverage rules rarely are granted. These personalities also are sensitive to criticism and are reluctant delegators. They can't take the risk of someone else messing up and assignment.

Approximately 15% of all agency principal profiles exhibit this personality type. They are successful in commercial sales because their grasp of facts, details and product knowledge-rather than forcefulness or enthusiasm-sells the product. However, they can be so immersed in details and spend so much time packaging a proposal that they are unable to spend a sufficient amount of time in the selling marketplace. Often these personalities handle big critical accounts, leaving more sales-effective personalities to market the broad range of products and to develop new clients.

Gaining a knowledge of employee personalities and how they function in the five critical areas of the insurance business can help the principal understand, build and manage his or her business. While not every employee is perfect fit with his or her position, diligence and care in the selection, placement and management of staff will enable the agency principal to achieve a larger bottom line.