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Finding and keeping quality producers is key to long-term growth, increased sales, and greater profitability for every link in the distribution chain: company, firm, producer.

It sounds simple, but recruiting is one of the toughest jobs field managers face. Why field managers? Why not the home office? Because successful recruiting is done in the field.

The home office provides support and incentives, but when push comes to shove, it is the leadership in the field that gets the recruiting job done.

A Culture of Recruiting

From top to bottom–from home office and field leaders to top producers and agency staff–everyone must be involved in recruiting. They must buy into a consistent message about the company and the firm. They must know what the companys vision is, understand the career potential, and appreciate the value the local firm offers candidates.

Perhaps most important, they must be able to articulate this information, even if in slightly different ways, to anyone who asks–because each contact is a potential recruit. The basic message must be the same and also must be one that the speakers believe. If the message is communicated by people who dont believe what theyre saying, that disbelief can come across loud and clear.

This “culture of recruiting” doesnt happen overnight. An infrastructure must be built to ensure that the message is a real one. Any company can boast of having the best, most competitive product line, sales support and compensation package around. If it doesnt deliver on this message, however, recruits soon find out through other sources and go elsewhere.

Creating the Infrastructure for Recruiting

From a company perspective, an effective infrastructure includes a clear vision and the core values the company stands for. Potential recruits should know, at a glance, where the company wants to go and how it intends to get there. The vision should include measurements as well. The company must put in place everything needed for success in this business: a top-quality product line, knowledgeable sales and marketing support, operational excellence, a strong broker/dealer, and, of course, a competitive compensation and benefits package.

Many companies will choose among these basic “must haves” and enhance them with their own unique twists or special features that can allow the company to stand apart from the crowd.

Producers and field managers should be on the lookout for these types of enhancements–they show a companys commitment to continually improving and trying to offer more to those in the field. It will show that a company is “producer-centric” in its way of thinking, delivering services, and in nurturing great careers.

Local firm infrastructure is just as critical. First, firms must have strong field managers who have developed their own recruiting plan. While tied to the goals of the company, the firms plan should focus on its own growth goals and specify tactics and techniques suited to its expertise and markets.

The plan must be owned and embraced by the entire agency. The plan should also include reward programs that provide incentives to reach the firms goals.

Second, just as the home office must have a clear vision focused on the producer, the local firm must be able to demonstrate what makes it special to the recruit. What does the firm offer to help that new producer make a great career in this business or assist that veteran producer in achieving a higher level of success?

Specific elements that todays recruits seek include the firms ability to put new producers in specific target markets, instead of simply letting inexperienced agents sink or swim in their “natural market.”

College recruits, for example, want to be shown a clear career path, a training program, a marketing plan and a support system that will help them become successful in financial services. Many want to know the opportunities to move into management positions.

Veteran producers are attracted to excellence in local advanced sales support for estate and business planning, access to product specialists and case design experts. Many veteran producers seek to boost their production by teaming up with newer producers to better penetrate target markets and expand sales to current clients. To support this, local firms should offer a concrete high-performance team selling approach and advanced training for veterans–delivered in ways other than the traditional classroom or seminar.

Getting the Job Done

Firms can put together the right combination of active and passive recruiting tactics and techniques for their infrastructure and recruiting culture. The Internet has become an excellent tool for recruiting; many companies and local firms establish programs with popular job and career sites that push traffic to them.

In addition, both companies and their local firms should have strong websites with a sales career section that articulates their vision and the incredible career opportunity that awaits the right people.

The key to success is to focus on active sources and put procedures in place that keep activity going and growing. The best field recruiters out there are keen observers of potential talent and are almost obsessed with cultivating nominators among their staff, their producers, and their centers of influence. These recruiters treat nominators like a board of directors. They have lists and follow up regularly. They say “thank you” and show their appreciation. They remind nominators of the characteristics of the people they are looking for. They use and expand their contacts in the community, in their business, and among their client base to continually seek out new people with the potential for great success.

At a childrens soccer game, top recruiters will get to know coaches, other parents and teachers, always looking for recruits and referrals. Top recruiters clergy or religious leaders are nominators; so are CPAs and attorneys. At a restaurant, an excellent waiter, waitress, bartender or manager could be a potential recruit.

Top recruiters are always asking people how they feel about their current career, job or situation. If theyre happy, recruiters ask them to become nominators. If theyre unhappy, recruiters show them an opportunity for a new career. They might be happy now but become discontented later. By establishing an ongoing relationship with them, recruiters create the possibility that, should they become unhappy, the recruiter will be one of the first people they call. Thats how field managers become successful recruiters. It is the heart and soul of recruiting.

In theory, successful recruiting is simplecreate a recruiting culture, build the infrastructure, and use the right mix of tactics to get the job done. In reality, recruiting is as much art as science. It is blend of field management leadership and focus, commitment from agency staff, and the support of the home office–all working together, in alignment, to attract and keep excellent producers.

, CLF, is second vice president, field development at New England Financial, Boston, Mass. He can be reached via e-mail at Jpratt@nef.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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