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Merchants Insurance Group Welcomes Insurance Professionals for 2022 Producer Training School

Another successful Producer Training School is in the books!

From October 2, 2022 through October 7, 2022, Merchants Insurance Group hosted a phenomenal group of producers at Aloft Buffalo Downtown hotel for the annual Producer Training School (PTS). Organized and hosted by Bob Perno, Corporate Sales Manager at Merchants Insurance Group, PTS brings together insurance professionals with varying experience eager to learn and grow in the industry.

Pictured: Attendees get acquainted on Sunday, October 2nd with registration, orientation, and a welcome reception at Aloft Buffalo Downtown hotel.


What is Producer Training School?

Producer Training School is an intensive five-day program designed for insurance professionals with a minimum of six months in the industry to hone their selling skills and grow in the insurance field. This training opportunity provides attendees with an invaluable professional development experience, whether they are new producers looking to develop their sales skills or seasoned salespeople hoping to enhance their existing sales strategies.

In addition to professional training, Producer Training School provides attendees with opportunities to build and develop strong relationships with Merchants’ staff and other producers. They also have the ability to earn CE credits as the Dynamics of Selling is recognized by many states as an approved CE program.


Bob Perno from Merchants Insurance Group speaking to attendees at Producer Training School

“I genuinely enjoy watching strangers meet on day 1 not knowing what the week will entail and then returning home energized and armed with a wealth of powerful information to enhance their confidence and sales success,” says Bob Perno, Corporate Sales Manager at Merchants Insurance Group and Host/Organizer of Producer Training School. “I often hear from attendees afterwards that Merchants Producer Training School vastly exceeded their expectations.”

Upon completion of the program each year, Merchants asks participants for their feedback. In the past, attendees have called PTS “rock solid,” a “world class program,” and “the best producer training”!

“Our focus is to ensure attendees maximize their experience both in and out of the classroom,” says Perno. “Attendees will learn a lot and have fun doing so.”

This year, 19 participants joined us for the chance to enhance their insurance selling skills, learn from and network with other industry professionals, and explore Buffalo, New York.

On Monday, the first full day of PTS, the group had professional headshots and a group photo taken:
Producer Training School group photo with Merchants' PTS logo

FRONT, from LEFT: Michael Burke, ISU-Great Northern Insurance; Heather Plunkett, HPM Insurance; Joe Mather, HMS Agency, Inc.; Raymond Fauchon, Takach & Associates Inc.; Greg Zorn, Evans Insurance Agency; Tyler Thomson, Strategic Insurance Partners; Tyler Callaghan-Canady, Colstan & Associates; Julie Radt, Weed Ross; Nikki Smith, Secur-All Agency, Inc. – BACK, From LEFT: Jack LaCasse, HUB International New England; Mick Mounsey, The Davis Agency; James Flynn, John J. Flynn Insurance Agency; Dave Poulin, Reliable Insurance Solutions; Robin D’Agostino, Colstan & Associates; Giancarlos Ruiz, Roy H. Reeve Agency, Inc.; Kyle OBraitis, James F. Sutton Agency; Ethan Maslyn, Evans Insurance Agency; Jack Lyons, Lawley, LLC; Joe Casiuk, Mirabito-Gresham Insurance & Bonds


Speakers and Sessions

Each day of Producer Training School, participants attend sessions led by guest speakers on their respective areas of expertise, tailored to enhance producers’ sales approach and ability.

The Dynamics of Selling

Producer Training School’s educational sessions kick off with one of the program highlights: “The Dynamics of Selling,” a series taught by guest speakers and industry leaders Griff Griffith and Joe Coccimiglio.

The Dynamics of Selling is an insurance-specific sales process that focuses on super-qualifying prospects, demonstrating value and avoiding the price-driving sales, and knowing when to move towards a close or walk away.  It’s taught by highly-successful insurance professionals,” according to Bob Perno.

Griff Griffith, Principal at GMGS Risk Management & Insurance Services

Griff Griffith, Principal at GMGS Risk Management & Insurance Services

Following breakfast on Monday morning, participants attended the first session of Producer Training School: Understanding the Client Decision Process with Griff Griffith, Principal at GMGS Risk Management & Insurance Services.

After the morning session, attendees took a break for photos (each attendee gets a professional headshot taken at PTS!) and lunch. Griffith then led the afternoon session: The Dynamics Sales Process.

Griffith continued The Dynamics Sales Process on Tuesday morning.




Joe Coccimiglio, President of Lincoln Insurance

Joe Coccimiglio,

Joe Coccimiglio, President of Lincoln Insurance

After lunch, Tuesday sessions and The Dynamics of Selling series resumed with the next speaker: Joe Coccimiglio, President of Lincoln Insurance.

For the remainder of the afternoon session, Coccimiglio shared insights into the Dynamics Sales Process.

Coccimiglio kicked off Wednesday’s sessions, too, with a session on Advanced Client Communications, followed by a group session on Developing a Dynamics of Selling Action Plan.



YESCALATE ® – Get to Yes Faster

Dean Minuto, award-winning speaker, sales coach, and author

Dean Minuto, YESCALATE ® – Get to Yes Faster

On Thursday morning, Dean Minuto captivated the attendees with his innovative YESCALATE ® – Get to Yes Faster program.

Minuto is an award-winning speaker, sales coach, author, and more. His YESCALATE ® – Get to Yes Faster program is designed to “educate, entertain, and engage an audience, changing the way they think about influence and teaching them how to GET TO YES FASTER®”





Digital Marketing

Erica Dalton, Marketing Supervisor at Merchants Insurance Group

Erica Dalton, Marketing Supervisor at Merchants Insurance Group


On Thursday, Erica Dalton, Marketing Supervisor at Merchants Insurance Group, spoke about digital marketing: what it is and how producers can use it to better reach and engage with their target audiences.

She later led a group discussion, fielding questions from attendees on the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing and best practices to consider.




Merchants Commercial Lines Products

Frank Simpson, Territory Manager for Merchants’ Central New York and Capital District

Frank Simpson, Territory Manager for Merchants Insurance Group’s Central New York and Capital District


On Friday, Frank Simpson, Territory Manager for Merchants’ Central New York and Capital District, presented the final session of the program: an overview of Merchants’ commercial lines products and coverage differentiators to help attendees sell more effectively.






Closing Ceremonies

Bob Perno, Corporate Sales Manager at Merchants Insurance Group, Host and Organizer of Producer Training School

Bob Perno, Corporate Sales Manager at Merchants Insurance Group

After an informative, engaging, and fun five days, Producer Training School came to a close on Friday, October 7th. The group completed surveys to provide feedback about their experiences throughout the week, and then, the Closing Ceremonies began!

During Closing Ceremonies, Bob Perno spoke to the group about the week, congratulating the class and presenting each participant with a certificate of completion.

Each year, one outstanding member of the class receives the Producer Training School MVP award recognizing their achievements and contributions to the week’s program. This year’s recipient was Joe Casiuk from Mirabito-Gresham Insurance & Bonds!



Producer Training School 2022 MVP Joe Casiuk and Bob Perno, Producer Training School organizer and host

Making Connections

Producer Training School provides attendees with the invaluable opportunity to meet other insurance professionals! In addition to networking with speakers and special guests, attendees spend the week in group sessions with classmates and bond beyond the seminars at group dinners and outings.

“One of the benefits is attendees will return home with life-long personal and professional friendships,” says Bob Perno.

Attendees enjoyed nightly group dinners around Buffalo! They dined at restaurants such as Vice Restaurant, Bada Bing Sports Bar & Grill, Tappo Restaurant, Patrick’s Rooftop, and Osteria 166.

Group dinners included special guests from Merchants Insurance Group (in order of appearance!):

  • Erica Dalton, Marketing Supervisor
  • Kyra-Jade Lewis, Associate Video Developer
  • Charles Makey, President of Merchants Insurance Group
  • Lisa Grajeda, Executive & Regional Office Support Specialist
  • Greg Robinson, Regional Vice President – Western Strategic Business Center
  • Frank Simpson, Territory Manager – Central New York & Capital District

The group made other off-location outings, too, to see what Buffalo has to offer. They visited Niagara Falls and cheered on the Buffalo Sabres against the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center!

When asked what was surprising about her experience in Buffalo, New York, attendee Heather Plunkett said, “How friendly everyone is! Everyone I met, whether they were the hotel staff or the wait staff at an area restaurant or meeting one of the locals, everyone was just so incredibly nice!”

The group explores Niagara Falls together!

Group photos at Niagara Falls, located about 25 miles from the hotel.

Special thanks to our attendees for sharing these photos with us!

Attendee Feedback

Upon conclusion of Producer Training School, attendees are asked to share feedback on their experiences of the week. What sessions were most valuable? Did PTS meet their expectations? Would they recommend PTS to other producers?

The survey results speak for themselves!

Photo Gallery

Browse more photos from Producer Training School 2022 below!


Producer Training School Class of 2022

Congratulations to this year’s attendees on completing Producer Training School!

We appreciate your eagerness to learn and willingness to share throughout the week. Thank you for making PTS 2022 a success!


Next year’s Producer Training School will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 8-13, 2023. Stay tuned for more information!

Katherine Trautwein

Merchants Insurance Group

Merchants Insurance Group sells its products through a network of more than 1,000 independent insurance agents in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. We sell our products through independent insurance agents because we believe they provide value to policyholders through their broad range of products and their insurance expertise.