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For the last 20 years I have learned many things, one of which is that when there is a concern or a problem, it is not the time to do something–as much as it is the time to know something.

As both a financial representative and a professional trainer, I was deeply saddened by the results of a recent LIMRA study that indicated our industrys retention is at an all-time low for agents in their first four years. Only one out of seven agents stay in the business, ironically at a time when we have more wealth in our country than ever before and a marketplace with an increased need for planning.

The question before our industrys management responsible for recruiting and training is, “Why?”

It is now time to reflect and ask the tough questions, time to remember who we are as an industry and how we contribute to agents and clients, time to remember that the key to our lives and businesses is relationships. If we can get this part right, we can accomplish anything.

I have experienced in my own career that the problem is rarely the problem, and the solution is rarely the solution. Clarity of thinking and understanding is how to resolve a problem.

People do not go to work to fail. They are doing the best they can with what they know. I have observed that many field agents are recruited and trained without a clear sense of understanding the following questions:

?–Why are you here?

?–What will you do?

–How will you do it?

Without a clear understanding of these core questions connected to the individual’s values, you can see where confusion rather than clarity would be the rule.

For example, take two agents with similar intelligence and training. Both start their careers with the best of intentions. Why is it that one enjoys success and performs in the top 20% of his peer-group, and the other barely gets by?

I submit that top producers think differently. They are clear about why they show up and how they can contribute. They are confident in the knowledge that they make a difference, their work matters, and they perform accordingly.

Agents who are struggling in many cases are doing so because of their belief that they are not good enough or interesting enough. I remind agents that if they dont think they’re good enough, how can they expect their prospects to think any differently.

The opportunity before all of us in this great profession is to have the courage to see our current reality and confront it. We need to have the courage to get clear about our purpose, intention, motivation, agreement, and communication with why and how we conduct ourselves in business situations. We must remind ourselves that we always have a choice:

–We choose whether our purpose is to make money, or to make a difference;

–We choose to have the intention to sell someone, or to serve them;

–We choose to view our work as an obligation to simply pay our bills, or as an opportunity to express our talents and abilities;

–We choose to have agreements with people that are limiting and manipulative, or truthful and authentic; and

–We choose to have a communication process that is competitive and adversarial, or supportive and collaborative.

The choices and decisions we make now can and will have a significant impact on our companies, our industry and ourselves. We have the power to choose clarity or confusion. This is the time to put our intentions in line with our actions and behavior.

I believe in our industry. I know from experience we make a difference in people’s lives. The key to quality recruiting and training will be to connect with people and their values, and allow them to be who they are–not who others would like them to be.

As an industry, we need to help guide people and not control them. We need to promote programs that shift thought processes from doing things right, to doing the right things for ourselves and the people we serve.

In my Principals of Engagement(TM) workshop, I share what I call my Client Creator Process.(TM) This is a process that emphasizes a service mentality based on knowledge rather than beliefs. It focuses on how to attract clients versus chase them, to engage people with empathy instead of arrogance.

I show agents how to contribute with value, to help create a vision for their clients, and most importantly, help empower their clients to take action. The key to the success of the program is it allows agents to relate to others in a natural way that is authentic to who they are.

I have observed people leave relationships and companies only when they feel limited, exploited, or manipulated. They stay when they feel appreciated, utilized, enhanced and rewarded.

Being clear about who you are, what you will do, and how you will do it will dramatically affect the process of attracting and retaining quality people. I am often reminded that leadership is not what you are doing, but what others do because you are there.

I encourage agents and managers alike to remember we only empower ourselves and others when we let go of something. In the case of recruiting and training, we must let go of our old beliefs and perceptions about how to attract and retain quality people and create significant relationships.

We must remember the only reason that companies exist is to serve their clients and customers. A superior company is one that views its employees as its most valuable asset, and recognizes that superior talent selects the company it chooses to work with.

Now is the time to remind ourselves what we know. All progress starts by telling the truth and paying attention. It is important to get clear that we as individuals and an industry will become what we see ourselves to be, and then what we do, will follow.

, CLU, ChFC, is a Top of the Table producer for The Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, and CEO of The Cassara Clinic, LLC., Oakbrook, Ill. You can contact him at info@ cassaraclinic.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 18, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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