Recruiting And Training Agents

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Life insurance is not bought; it must be sold. Selling insurance requires people talking to people. Potential clients want an agent they know and trust, one who is knowledgeable in the field. Therefore, the key to business success is attracting, hiring and developing the right agents and financial advisors.

Recruiting

Agents should be selected from a point of strength. It is important to have enough candidates to interview to be able to select the best one. In addition, by interviewing a large number of candidates you hone your interviewing skills.

A successful recruiter generates good name flow from “warm sources,” people who refer prospective agents to recruiters. Just as referrals are the lifeblood for a good agent, warm source name flow is the lifeblood for a good recruiter.

Most often, the best prospects come as referrals from existing agents. Recruiters who dont regularly ask for names from their existing agents are missing an important opportunity.

Not only do existing agents know the qualities they admire in their colleagues, they know what it takes to do the job successfully. Typically, the most accomplished agent prospector will be the best provider of name flow for recruiting.

Good agents often move into management and recruiting positions. Whatever an agent was doing to find new prospects may be a great warm source recruiting process. If great centers of influence were successful for prospecting as agents, use them as great sources for recruiting name flow.

Additionally, new managers who transitioned from the field should recognize their existing clients will also bring in outstanding recruits. Approach your clients and let them know that you have changed career paths and are looking for individuals to join your company.

Additional sources that give a recruiter quality names include Internet job postings, advertising, direct mail and participation in career and job fairs. A recruiter must use all of these tools to find quality candidates.

Some important tips to keep in mind when recruiting:

? Build relationships with the warm source individuals who will be there to help you when you ask them.

? Use a good e-mail system to stay in front of the e-mail population.

? Make sure you are in front of your centers of influence on a regular basis and provide them with value.

Once a candidate successfully has gotten past the screening process, the next step is to make the right selection. This is where great managers earn their stripes and have the opportunity to build outstanding agencies.

Weve all been taught to use behavioral-based questions to assess potential candidates. The question is this: How many of us ask them and use the results? Its very easy to ask the questions, but its difficult to make the right decision based on the answers when there is an immediate need for an additional hire.

Its time to sharpen those skills and commit to using them with every prospective agent you interview. Taking regular refresher courses that focus on agent selection and asking behavior-based questions is worth your time just to remind yourself of the importance of that step.

At this stage, it is also imperative to do the following:

? Conduct pre-contract training to let the candidate see what he/she will be doing before starting full time. This matches perception and reality and gives the manager an opportunity to verify the market potential of the individual.

? Conduct reference checks. The value derived from speaking to references should not be underestimated.

? Have the candidate meet with other agents in the office so he or she can ask questions. This gives you, the manager, an opportunity to get feedback from the agent and to see what questions the candidate asked.

Developing

If your No. 1 job is to recruit, then your No. 1 responsibility is to develop the people you recruit. It is not enough to hire the agent and tell him/her to “go get em, tiger.” Taking the time to help that new hire gain the knowledge and skills required to be a great agent will serve you well.

Managers must learn to help their agents achieve greatness. Agent development requires patience. It also requires solid systems that provide a basic curriculum with options for the agents to learn new skills. Product knowledge is certainly important, but the focus should be on teaching the sales process and doing it properly.

Agents must learn new skills and gain new knowledge. The knowledge is relatively easy to deliver through written workbooks, Web-based workshops and seminars, and Web-moderated training. Learning skills requires time and face-to-face demonstration and practice of the skills both in the classroom and in the field.

The adult learner tends to gather new knowledge at his or her own pace, so offering ways to learn on their own is preferable to classroom instruction. In fact, less than 10% of what is presented in a classroom setting is retained.

Learning requires the learner to be engaged, involved and doing things independently. Web-based learning and database systems provide unlimited resources to new agents. The classic written word in a published workbook is still a viable alternative.

Learning a new skill on the other hand requires the agent to have the opportunity to take action and perform that skill. For example, golf is a mental game, but can you really improve your putting by “thinking the ball into the hole”? I havent seen that done.

I believe you must swing the putter to improve your putting skills and you must practice closing and answering objections to improve your closing skills. You must also have someone who knows how to close-coach you through that process of practicing and performing.

Agent development needs to have 5 key components. (See sidebar on page 14.)

The insurance industry provides a service families around the country need. With the number of agents in the field decreasing steadily, it is more important than ever to attract, hire, retain and develop agents who will be a success for you and your agency.

Morris Sims, CLU, ChFC, is vice president of New York Life Insurance Company, New York, N.Y. He can be reached at ROSS_M_SIMS@NewYorkLife.com.


Kicker: Checklist

Key Components Of Agent Development

? A complete curriculum that sequences information for the person who has no knowledge of our business or sales.

? A curriculum built around the sales process: prospecting, approach, fact-finding, identifying the problem, providing a solution, closing and answering objections, and service.

? Regular opportunities for group or one-on-one practice sessions. A complete sales track for the new agent to learn is a critical part of the process in learning sales skills. Professional salespeople know what they are going to say before they say it!

? Regular opportunities for a mentor agent or manager (who use the same sales system the agent has been taught) to join new agents in the field to observe their performance and to demonstrate sales skills.

? Regular performance review sessions with a manager to evaluate the new agents progress and provide complete and honest feedback and direction.

Just as referrals are the lifeblood for a good agent, warm source name flow is the lifeblood for a good recruiter


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 10, 2005. Copyright 2005 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.