How One Agency Wins The Retention Battle
One of the biggest problems the life insurance industry wrestles with is its failure to grow the career sales force. A recent LIMRA study confirms this, with four-year agent retention at a dismal 14%–the lowest it’s been since 1981.
Furthermore, of those agents who were terminated in the year 2000, 82% were in their first four years in the business. Experts say that these types of statistics can influence even the lowest quality recruit to search for a career in a different field.
Breaking this trend is a task that may take years for the industry as a whole to achieve. However, there are agencies that have exceptional track records in recruiting and retaining agents. One of them is Savage and Associates of Toledo, Ohio.
Just over two-thirds of Savage’s agents joined the firm right out of college and the average length of employment is 18 years, says Bob Savage, CEO of the agency.
“I think where we have a real advantage is that we have a system we’ve developed over a very long period of time,” says Savage.
That system has evolved to include a comprehensive screening process, a two-year training program, and a formalized mentoring program.
“What’s different about us is our retention and the longevity of our people, and I think that can be attributed to our screening process,” says Tim Toland, senior vice president of Savage.
A very selective screening process is one way the firm increases the chances for an agent’s success. “I talk to 20 people before we hire one,” says Margo Maxwell, director of recruiting for Savage.
Maxwell primarily targets college seniors as recruits and puts them through an extensive screening before making a recommendation for hire.
“The interview process is the screening interview, the LIMRA test, the management interviews, and the last official step is a packet of marketing surveys we have them do–40 individual surveys and 10 business owner surveys,” she says.
Probably the most in-depth part of the process is the completion of this series of marketing surveys. “They aren’t selling anything with these surveys,” she says. “It’s like a practice run.”
Dan Steinberg, senior vice president of Savage, feels that these surveys are the most important part of the screening process. “Its a good tool to give them an idea whether or not they’re comfortable meeting with people on a one-on-one basis, talking about their finances,” he says.
When completing the surveys, the candidate begins by explaining that he or she is considering going into the financial services business, says Steinberg.
“And at the end of the survey, they ask for referrals of who else they can ask the survey questions, and that gets them used to asking for referrals,” he says.
“They also ask that if they do come into the business, would the person mind if they called on them in the next 3-6 months,” continues Steinberg. “Its a great tool for the prospect, and its a great tool for us to evaluate the prospect.”
Toland adds, “Another thing that comes out of that, is if we do say that its a good fit, they’ve got about 150 prospects coming out of the chute, so they hit the ground running.”
“The whole process is long and involved,” says Maxwell. “We want them to be as sure as we are that they’re right for this place,” she says.
“We make a very clear investment to keep people out,” says Bob Savage. “We always need to bring in a few people, but you need to bring in a few that are going to be successful.”
Savage notes that the annual goal is to bring in 10 recruits every year, but to never deviate from the quality they are looking for.
“If you keep those kind of standards, you end up with the kind of people you enjoy being with, and people who have a much better potential of being successful in the business,” says Savage.
In addition to drawing on college seniors, Toland explains that through their new college intern program, they are able to get an even closer look at a candidate. “We’ve had this internship program for 2 years. This gives us an opportunity for 12 weeks to take a good look at the candidate–and the same for them. They get a taste of the business and they get a look at Savage and Associates,” says Toland.