The industry also faces huge job inflation resulting in many people getting promoted even before they have developed the maturity to supervise & own teams
Sales is not a career of choice for many - Judhajit Das, Chief Human Resources, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance
What are the characteristics on managing sales teams that are unique in our Industry?
The first element that is unique to the Insurance space is the regulatory requirement of certification that anybody who is selling products in this space needs to have; In the Insurance space, the successful sales people are actually people who are seasoned professionals on financial markets and products as those are able to connect with the customer much better and create the trust that customer needs to buy these products. That way, Insurance I will say is quite knowledge intensive.
What are the key challenges you face in terms of talent in your sales teams?
Two main challenges to start with at the recruitment stage: firstly is the limited talent pool available who are knowleadgeable about insurance domain, financial markets and products given the growth needs of the industry. The second factor is that sales in not a career of choice for many including graduates, post graduates & MBA's.
1) Limited talent pool : Frontline sales roles are customer facing roles and requires social confidence, command over the language, maturity in handling customer interface. We have found frontline sales roles are not a preferred career starting point for post graduates and MBA's and for many graduates as well who prefer desk jobs. Additionally, sales requires flexibility of schedule as it depends on customers convenience and this becomes a barrier for many including women with young children etc.
2) Acceptance of a sales job in the Indian context is very low. Sales is a not an easy job, there is rejection and is frustration so it requires a type of social confidence that is unique to succeed in this type of roles. For example, when we recruit, we have not found any correlation between academic performance and success in sales but we find that people who are socially confident, participate in team sports, people who get involved in extra-curricular activities tend to perform better in sales roles. Also related to this acceptance is the fact that people in sales have higher volatility of income and that becomes an issue for the individual especially as he or she moves into different stages of their lives. People working in sales roles always feel the pressure of performing as their pay is linked to their performance.
Once the person comes onboard, the challenge is to create the platform for them to succeed. Selling insurance products is a very tough process and that is why the industry faces such high early attrition in the first 3 to 6 months. Focusing on induction and training in the initial stage is hence critical.
The next challenge is to move the person to roles up the sales career. Here we see two very distinct cases, on the one hand, you have the seasoned sales people who are fantastic sales people, great performers and want to continue being individual sales people without moving to managerial or leadership roles and on the other hand people who want to move to manager roles even thought they do not have the required competencies but want to gain the acceptability of status and a more stable income even if that mean a lesser income than before. In the Industry also, we face huge job inflation, that means that many people get promoted before they have developed the maturity to handle people issues, people who can supervise and own teams, that means that often sales people are moved to management role very quickly and without the necessary capabilities to perform those new responsibilities .
At ICICI Prudential, we believe that frontline sales people who generate revenue for the business are value creators and we would like to encourage more and more people to make fantastic sales careers with us.