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Supercharging sales leadership with an advanced business simulator

How do you provide experienced sales leaders with a challenging assessment of their development?

That was the task for LIMRA, a world-leading research and learning and development organisation for the life insurance and financial services sectors. They provide training solutions to over 850 financial services firms who make up their global membership community.

One of LIMRA’s most respected development programmes is the Chartered Insurance Agency Manager (CIAM) designation. This certification is aimed at developing sales leaders running agencies that specialise in the sale of life insurance and financial services products.

This internationally-recognised designation programme culminates in a face-to-face Managing Agency Profitability Seminar (MAPS) course, led by LIMRA’s experienced global facilitators.

the start screen of the LEO Learning profit engine

Seeking an innovation partner

LIMRA wanted an innovative solution that would sit at the heart of this final course. But they also recognised their ambitions outweighed their internal capabilities.

“We could have developed something like this in-house but the level of complexity wouldn’t have been as deep, and therefore the experience to the participant would have been far less realistic,” says Jacquie Lucas, Director, Product Architecture at LIMRA.

Following LEO Learning’s recent creation of a multi-award-winning solution for LIMRA’s sister organisation, LOMA, they knew we could help them deliver the solution they needed in style.

Understanding the challenges facing life insurance salespeople

As a world-leading research organisation, LIMRA has a deep understanding of the challenges life insurance sales agencies face. The main one is simple: managing profitability.

LIMRA found that many sales leaders don’t recognise or understand the drivers that impact profitability within their agency and how their decisions in key areas, such as recruitment, impact on the bottom line.

Through LIMRA’s CIAM designation, sales leaders develop a full understanding of successful sales management through the employment of industry tactics and practices that drive profitability. To achieve this designation, participants need to be able to apply this understanding and knowledge to demonstrate they are equipped to manage the challenges of running a profitable sales agency. This is the purpose of the MAPS course.

the profit engine project features videos

Close collaboration on a complex solution

At project kick-off, LEO Learning’s senior consultants ran an exciting two-day ideation workshop with the LIMRA team.

From there, the basic concept emerged. LIMRA’s extensive industry research suggested that there are four key levers that impact profitability. Understanding how decisions in each of these areas affect agency bottom lines formed the crux of the design.

Because the teams had access to LIMRA’s database of industry insights and statistical analysis, they quickly realised they had the data to build a complex financial model that would power a sales agency simulator.

But that task was easier said than done. Over the next few months of the project, LEO Learning consultants collaborated closely with LIMRA’s subject matter experts and researchers to develop a realistic financial model. It was important that the model accurately recreated the often-complex and nuanced relationship between strategic decisions and financial results in a sales agency environment.

“With this level of leadership expertise, we knew we would not have been respected if we’d developed an experience without the level of complexity and realism we’ve achieved in this project,” says Jacquie.

After a series of iterations, the financial model was finalised. Existing in spreadsheet form initially, it was then developed by the LEO Learning team into the ‘Profit Engine’.

Connecting business decisions to everyday results

The Profit Engine is built around the levers that sales leaders have the responsibility to control and influence.

These are:

  • Recruitment and selection – Who you hire and the processes you undertake to select them.
  • Training and development – How you allocate budget and resources to training and development across the business.
  • Business management – What decisions you make around expenses to manage the agency.
  • Sales and financial metrics – This lever is essentially the result of decisions in the other three areas, and also influences future decisions. For example, poor results in year one will result in less budget to spend in year two.

Every decision made in one of these key areas has an impact on overall profitability, so it was important to LIMRA that learners could see the realistic consequences of their actions.

you can make complex business decisions in the profit engine

Creating an immersive experience

To create a truly realistic simulation, we built a scenario-led learning experience which added vital real-life context to the challenge of managing profitability.

The Profit Engine experience focuses on a fictional sales agency, Golden Hill. Learners who attend the MAPS course are assigned a team which they can name and assign a logo to. Each team’s challenge is to manage the profitability of Golden Hill over a period of three years.

At the start of each year, teams are introduced to the context of that particular period. This could be through videos from the CEO, news items or briefing documents.

videos help set the scene in the profit engine

Just as in real life, internal and external conditions impact the business and force learners to reassess the decisions they need to make for that particular period. For example, learners may be challenged by competitors entering the market or a slowdown in the economy.

Based on the contextual information they receive, as well as detailed data contained in the Profit Engine, each team has to make decisions around allocating budget and resource to each of the four key areas that impact profitability.

At the end of each quarter, each team can see the interim results. At the end of each year, learners see the full results of their decisions over the past year, compare them to other teams and evaluate the decisions that have been made.

evaluating decisions in the profit engine

Blending digital and face-to-face together

While the Profit Engine itself is a digital solution, its impact is maximised by combining it with a rich and interactive classroom experience. The LEO Learning team designed this to engage and immerse sales leaders from start to finish.

Before they attend the workshop, participants are given materials designed to prime them for the Profit Engine experience. These include detailed background information on the Golden Hill agency and a contract that sets out the principles they will need to work to during the workshop.

The exact use of the Profit Engine within a classroom setting was carefully considered by the LEO Learning team. During the seminar, the facilitator is solely in charge of the Profit Engine through a slick control panel interface. This contains a series of screens where data on each of the key levers can be inputted for each team.

We also designed a game playmat for participants to use. This is a large laminated mat that each team can use to capture the decisions they want to make before taking them to the facilitator to input into the Profit Engine. At the end of each quarter, the mats can be wiped clean so the next set of decisions can be recorded.

During the analysis phases, a range of screens within the Profit Engine display each team’s results and achievements, as well as an overall leaderboard.

in the profit engine you can see each team's results

Ambitions fulfilled, expectations exceeded

Close collaboration and a high level of expertise were key to achieving the ambitious goals of the project.

“It was a very close, collaborative relationship,” says Jacquie. “The LEO Learning team was brilliant. Their understanding of the subject matter and what the Profit Engine needed to achieve was fantastic.”

The Profit Engine has been shared and played by senior stakeholders at LIMRA and is, as of mid-2018, being rolled out across LIMRA’s International markets.

‘‘The main response is ‘Wow! Just wow!’ LIMRA has never done anything like this and the level of detail and realism that’s been achieved has blown everyone away,” says Jacquie. “People look at the results and see so much potential. We’re already talking internally about how we can promote the Profit Engine to members in other locations.”

To find out how LEO Learning can help you supercharge learning and development in your organisation, contact us today.

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Meet our expert

I fell into instructional design about eight years ago whilst working as an editor at Pearson. I moved to LEO Learning and the cutting edge world of e-learning six years ago and I've loved almost every minute since. In my time here I've been involved with some truly innovative solutions and seen the birth and development of gomo. I moved into the Learning Consultant role in 2015 and have been enjoying the opportunity to be involved in earlier engagements with clients to help shape and define their approach to learning and learning solutions. I have also been developing a number of learning games and shaping how we do this at LEO Learning in the future. Recently I have been involved with some exciting strategic programmes and blends offering great opportunities to challenge my own design work and to continue to innovate in the work we do with our clients.