Nontraditional training programs have gained a foothold in the insurance sector, according to Vicente Pina, a senior consultant in the Training and Development Department of LIMRA International, an insurance marketing and research association.

This is part of a big-picture shift in the role of the insurance agent from a salesperson trying to acquire new clients to a financial advisor who wants to retain and expand his role with existing customers. What it means in terms of specific training programs, says Pina, "is that more companies are offering courses that teach entrepreneurship, marketing, and customer relationship management. The topics are geared toward reshaping salespeople into professional businesspeople who are proactively marketing their services to multiple market segments."

However, this doesn’t obviate the need for basic sales and dealer training for new industry hires. A recent LIMRA report found that 74 percent of new insurance agent hires had no industry experience, suggesting a huge need for training that orients new hires to the industry as a whole and to their company’s specific policies and products.