Training Top 125 Best Practice: Sales Essentials at Bankers Life

Sales Essentials for new agents is a learn/apply concept that segments learning into smaller, easier-to-internalize pieces that build on each other in a modular fashion.

Bankers Life previously onboarded and trained new agents through its New Agent Success (NAS) program. The NAS program was designed as a classroom-driven program where multiple branch offices sent their new agents to a centralized location for one week to learn product and sales fundamentals. After running this program for four years, the company identified some drawbacks to the model, including:

  • There was a significant financial cost to having a live class in a centralized location. In addition to the cost of hotel, conference center, meals, and travel, there is the time  producers spend out of the field.
  • This delivery method had a robust agenda, and a lot of content and concepts were put in front of the learner in a short period of time, which makes retention challenging.
  • Since this was a five-day centralized session, there was no opportunity for learners to immediately apply what they learned.
  • Since the training was facilitated by centralized trainers, the students’ field managers were not engaged or involved in their progress.

Bankers Life created Sales Essentials to address these challenges. It is a learn/apply concept that segments learning into smaller, easier-to-internalize pieces that build on each other in a modular fashion. 

Program Details

Each module of the Sales Essentials program is delivered in four steps:

1. Online coursework: The online coursework was created to be an interactive experience combining video, whiteboard animation, and learning activities, which provides the newest agents with foundational knowledge and skills. These courses can be watched from home in preparation for application practice in the branch office the following day.

2. Debrief: The debrief segment of the program is designed to provide clarification of more complex processes and concepts and cement the learning from the previously completed online coursework. It can be delivered in a live, in-person classroom style of training or through a nationally broadcast, interactive delivery model. 

3. Role-play: Each module contains a fully developed role-play scenario providing new agents an opportunity to put into practice the skills and concepts they learn throughout the program. Not only does this prepare new agents for application in the field, it also reengages field management in the learning process.

4. Field training: Every field manager has completed Sales Essentials and is tasked with the continual reinforcement and further development of the new agent’s skill set built throughout the program. The Sales Essentials model allows agents to put these skills into practice on the same day, minimizing loss of newly gained knowledge, as well as giving them the opportunity to start applying it in the field and generating income while doing so.


The introduction of Sales Essentials resulted in a significant annual savings through the elimination of hotel overnight and meeting space costs, among others. This has allowed the company to reallocate funds to other new initiatives in order to further improve its curriculum of learning.

Several key metrics are tied to the new agent training platform. Since the implementation of Sales Essentials on January 1, 2017, all of them have seen improvement year over year:

Successful New Agent Status: Improved 34 percent

90-Day Retention: Improved 5.25 percent

First 90-Day Productivity: Improved 10.5 percent

Following the initial launch, January 2017 through August 2017, Bankers Life saw improvement in the time to first application (6.84 percent). That initial level was maintained in the second year.


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