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In conversation with Nishant Mehta: Empowering the Next-Gen Agency Workforce

In this blog, we’ll be discussing-

  • A majority of the workforce is on the brim of retirement. How do you enable managers and sales leaders to get an end-to-end visibility of the recruitment process and funnel?
  • How can managers onboard the newly recruited agents and ensure they are achieving their targets?
  • Can agent teams be segmented based on real-time analysis and be coached contextually?
  • How to drive best-practices throughout the team in a remote work setting?
  • How to enable a single, unified view of all key metrics in real-time so that they can intervene where necessary?

Agencies happen to be the oldest distribution channel, even pre-LIC. Agents have always been grappling with the challenge of increasing the active agent ratio. What are the metrics that matter to you most? We asked our banking and insurance community.

75% voted for the no. of activities completed to be most important, followed by new business premiums and branches activated.

Managers need visibility and transparency right from the agent recruitment funnel. Access to this information in real-time will help identify RM’s or branches that need attention, understand bottlenecks, and help address issues at the right time. And more importantly, if certain tasks get automated, that helps save time for the reps and managers which can then be utilized better and thrown back into the distribution channel.

The KISS Concept (Keeping Things Sweet and Simple)

How do you enable your agents to improve daily productivity? How do we help modernize the agency channel, and what are the challenges?

Asia’s fund markets are changing, and fast: the growth of its middle class, a rapidly ageing population, the disruption of traditional distribution channels by the entrance of new ones, and opportunities to sell across borders are emerging. Today, technology is disrupting not only insurance products but also how they’re sold. Training and upskilling are crucial, but above all, management ideally should be led by example. The real challenge of shifting to an all-digital workflow and processes will be around the distribution capabilities to offer closer and customized solutions as the market develops.

The distribution will no longer be a single-step process, but a multi-faceted one with many considerations. These considerations will include:

  • activity segmentation,
  • improving the agent user experience,
  • building stronger brand trust/loyalty,
  • developing more relevant engagement points and
  • Coaching to build education and drive productivity.

Agencies are also one of the toughest professions to be in, especially for new agents signing up. Many new recruits drop off because they’re not able to sell beyond their natural market.

How do you help agents spread further from their natural markets and become successful?

Focusing on the Inner Circle – Time to Trespass the Traditional

Primarily, there are two major shifts in the insurance sales approach meant to enable insurers to be fit for the future:

1. Shift from product sales to relationship-based selling and subsequently to expertise-based selling.

2. Shift from plain script-based selling skills to behavioral skills and subsequently to expert financial advisory skills. This entails having a strong understanding of the market and the ability to interpret a significant amount of market/ economic data to provide advice.

Get up, dust yourself off, and develop a thicker skin, maybe?

In this business, as we’ve seen – the ability to listen to a firm no, dust yourself, get up and strut towards the next door becomes extremely critical. The number of no’s in this business is substantial. And also what we’re seeing in terms of data (India), the average productivity of an agent has been below one policy a month, a general overall average. They are earning anywhere between 8k-10k per policy. If they’re selling less than one policy, economically it isn’t viable for them to be in this profession, which unfortunately now has become more of a part-time profession. For us as industry practitioners, we yearn to understand how we can revert this pattern, and onboard more full-time agents.” Rajesh Sabhlok, CCO at Vymo

The idea here is to provide agents with the right resources and tools that enable them to be a part of the process while being able to meet their goals.

The Role of an Agency Manager

Given the attrition in the channel, managers are always involved in the funnel because agents also keep leaving – a high drop off rate. Not enough time is really spent on coaching the agency teams in place. This is a vicious cycle of sorts you know? How can agency managers break this pattern?

With 80% of the workforce constantly jumping jobs, we somehow miss who needs training where. While we talk about how as an industry we’re best in training, we majorly miss on customised training. An agency manager ideally has about 30-40 agents, and this becomes more important with millennials stepping in.” Nishant Mehta, SVP – Distribution Strategy at Future Generali India Life Insurance

Distributed Data causing Distress?

The pandemic is profoundly affecting how people engage. People are engaging through multiple channels, data is distributed and agents struggle to make relevant pitches or conversations due to lack of coaching or context. And it’s not just a pandemic effect, it was bound to happen at some point.

To address these challenges, insurers will need to rethink their distribution model across three dimensions: customers, sales force, and enablers (such as investment in data and digital tools). Doing so will empower them to stay prepared. Can agents access this data in real-time, and be able to make decisions while on the field thus being able to influence an outcome?

Insurers should also be cognizant while going digital, as the success of distribution digitization is highly dependent upon local regulations. Longer-term, as the market matures and demand grows for more personalized products, customer-agent-bank education and engagement will be key to winning new business. Also, customers are changing fast and are demanding more choices at a more rapid pace and lower costs. Levels of stickiness and brand advocacy have reduced significantly in the financial services industry. So it is imperative for agents to create value-added propositions.

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