The Case for Specialization
Lifetime Financial Growth’s Earl J. Luttner explains how he has built his business on a unique abilities model, with time-tested success
Frontline leader roles are changing. How has the concept of specialization versus generalization impacted your agency/firm?
Luttner: From my first days as a personal producer, I have held a deep belief that specialization is the preferred way to conduct business. A simple example explains the concept easily. In personal production, there are three basic roles: a prospector, a case designer/closer and a service person. The prospector is like a doctor who is a general practitioner; the case designer/closer is the surgeon; the service person is like the nurse. Each has a unique ability and a different role to fill. You wouldn’t want a general practitioner performing surgery or a surgeon spending time doing a nurse’s duties; just as a personal producer cannot be an expert in every line of business, nor should a leader attempt to be the expert in every area of his or her organization. We have built our firm on this unique abilities model, which has proven to be very successful.
Can a sales manager be too specialized? Too generalized? How do you achieve a balance?
Luttner: Being specialized is exactly what makes a person successful. I have always encouraged sales managers to be great at what they’re already good at and to delegate weaknesses. In my firm, we have separated the traditional sales manager role into different positions, including talent acquisition, training/education, accountability and joint work. For example, the person responsible for talent acquisition is not concurrently responsible for training/ education. Different personality types are better at different roles, and the way to maximize effectiveness is to leverage the unique abilities of each person on the team so you get the best performance from each person in his or her respective role.
“To expect any one person to gain experience in multiple areas concurrently is detrimental to the success of that individual and to the organization as a whole.”
How does your firm/agency determine which skills are critical? Are the same skills critical for all frontline leaders, or do you look for a mix?
Luttner: Using the unique abilities model, we search for individuals who are outstanding in a given critical skill set, such as recruiting, training/education, coaching/joint work and accountability/activity tracking. We routinely use personality assessments, such as Team Dynamics and Birkman assessments, to make an initial judgment about the best fit for an individual.
How does efficiency factor into the conversation around specialization versus generalization?
Luttner: Efficiency is enhanced as each person does only what he or she is best at doing. Many companies expect a sales manager to perform all duties at once, which is counterproductive. Focusing on unique abilities allows each individual to excel in his or her specific area of specialty. People cannot be efficient when they are struggling to perform an activity that they do not enjoy and are not good at. Fortune 500 companies do not expect any leader to be able to perform all roles. They have a CFO, CIO, CMO, and CTO, and the list goes on. To expect any one person to gain expertise in multiple areas concurrently is detrimental to the success of that individual and to the organization as a whole.
What is the greatest challenge firms/agencies face as frontline leader roles continue to evolve?
Luttner: With the ever-evolving regulatory environment, it is more important than ever for firms to have competent professionals who specialize in the area of compliance. As a result, firms need more revenue than ever to hire attorneys and other professionals to manage the complexities of compliance. This, in turn, increases the need for continual recruiting and development of more representatives to drive the growth of life insurance and disability income insurance sales. My message to the industry is to keep your eye on the real reason we are in this business — to provide protection for families and businesses.
Lifetime Financial Growth, LLC is an Agency of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. Securities products and advisory services offered through Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS), member FINRA, SIPC. OSJ: 244 Blvd of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (412) 391-6700. PAS is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian. This firm is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS. 2019-82556 EXP. 07/2021