Seen As The Key To
The life insurance industry can dominate the financial services business if it can improve agent retention and productivity, according to panelists at GAMA Internationals LAMP meeting here last month.
Ronald S. Rosbruch, president of New York-based Strategies for Wealth, said that over the course of some 20 years, the life insurance industry has been unable to increase agent retention.
The reason for this, he said, is that “there is a general unwillingness to look at the core causes of low productivity.”
William Grimes, president of Weatherford, Okla.-based Bill Grimes & Associates, said agents face tremendous stress and anxiety, which does not ease when they reach high levels of productivity.
It takes an enormous toll, Grimes said, for an agent to remain at the Million Dollar Round Table level.
A key to developing and retaining productive agents, Rosbruch said, is the quality of the relationship between the agent and the manager. “Your availability is important,” he told the agency managers in the audience.
Agents, Rosbruch said, need to have someone to talk to about their concerns and fears. “People need to know how important they are, not just as producers but as people.”
Rosbruch noted that GAMA recently conducted a study on why top producers leave their agencies.
Money, he said, was way down on the list of reasons. Rather, Rosbruch said, a major reason for top producers leaving has to do with whether they had a strong relationship with the managers.
Grimes said managers should ask themselves some questions about how they can have an impact on their agents. “How much time, effort and energy do you invest in building strong relationships?”
Rosbruch added that what agents want from their managers may change over time, but the need for interaction does not.
Another key to high retention and productivity is recruiting, according to Grimes. Some managers, he said, have “recruiting reluctance,” meaning they refrain from recruiting highly educated and successful people.
They are reluctant to recruit someone already in a high-paying job because of the fear that person might fail, he said. These managers, Grimes said, wonder how they could look themselves in the mirror if someone left a high-paying job and then failed as an agent.
However, Grimes said, there are a lot of talented people earning big bucks who are sick of working for corporate America.
Rosbruch said it is important for agencies to adopt a culture of excellence to help these people become successful in the life insurance business.
Too often, he said, managers have expectations that are too low. He questioned whether managers have different expectations for top performers as opposed to core performers. If managers believe their core performers have the ability to produce better results, he asked, would it have an impact on their productivity?
“We think it does,” he said.
The best general agents, Grimes added, believe they can make a difference in the lives and success levels of their people.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 9, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.