The numbers are in and theyre not good. The latest annual Agent Production and Survival study from LIMRA International shows that 4-year agent retention is down to just 11%–the lowest its been in more than 30 years.
Managers cant control all the factors that have led to this situation, but one they can control is agent selection. That can be the key to boosting retention and productivity and achieving real sales power growthbut only when its done right.
Here are 5 immediate ways to improve agent selection.
1. Dont just go with your gut.
We may all feel were great judges of character, but that 4-year agent retention rate of 11% proves otherwise. Heed your gut feeling when it sends up red flags, but also keep your selection process balanced, objective and focused on identifying the best sales representative candidates.
Use your eye for talent to spot good potential, but give it a rest while you impartially evaluate a candidate. Then, listen to your gut again for any remaining doubts about the candidates ability to succeed.
2. Rely on the experience of others.
Tap into the experience of thousands of other managers and recruiters by using a well-validated employment test. Managers often use biodata tests, personality tests, or a combination. A biodata test collects critical information about a candidates work and life history, and compares that with the backgrounds and performance of tens of thousands of previously hired agents. These tests handicap the odds a candidate will succeed as an agent by evaluating the success rates of similar candidates.
A validity study by one company drives the point home. It followed a large group of new hires over their first 4 years in the job. Individuals who scored high on the biodata test the company uses had a 130% higher 4-year survival rate. And among the 4-year survivors, high scorers earned 36% more commissions than low scorers. The test was not the only factor in their success, but test results do help managers temper their gut when making a hiring decision by giving them a dose of reality: the on-the-job performance of similar candidates.
Personality tests reflect how people present themselves–their style, not necessarily their substance. Applicants typically have some sort of sales personality or they wouldnt be applying for the agent job in the first place. But personality alone does not predict success, and the personalities of successful agents cover a broad spectrum. Just look at personality types in any agent hall of fame. These agents achieved success because of the ways they were managed and rewarded, and the ways they managed and rewarded themselves. The results of personality tests are best used to guide the training and supervision of qualified candidates.
3. Listen carefully.
Its natural to want to sell the career to a promising candidate, but top interviewers have trained themselves to listen carefully and collect all the information they need to make a thorough evaluation.