In today’s business environment, it seems that more financial sales professionals are going independent or moving to new organizations today than in decades. And research suggests that the top producer population usually works beyond typical retirement age.

There are two obvious reasons behind this phenomenon: First, changing leadership at large financial institutions leads to policy changes; second, those new policies can lead to restructured compensation plans for sales personnel.

I caught up with two experts on the subject of career transition and asked, “What absolute musts belong on an independent producer’s short list of considerations when contemplating a move to a new sales organization?”

The experts: Gil Cohen of Cypress Financial Group, an office of MetLife located in South Florida, is one of the life insurance giant’s top-producing offices in North America. Sales coach and author of the patented Mims Morning Meeting Productivity Book in Houston, Frank Mims V, offered up his insights as well. Both agreed on the five most common concerns for a producer to check off his or her short list when looking to make a career move.

1. A solid reputation and ambitious hiring strategy

“Obviously, a viable and reputable organization goes a long way. I built our agency from 19 reps to over 200 over the last five years, adding some seasoned MDRT producers and others new to our business,” says Gil Cohen at Cypress Financial Group. “That MetLife is the largest global insurer distinguishes me to a degree … but it’s not enough.”

If you’re seeking a new agency or broker-dealer, “pursue a good agency interested in referrals or centers of influence recruiting,” Mr. Cohen recommends.

2. Compensation

At the end of the day, no high-caliber producer is moving anywhere for less compensation. It might not be purely cash they’re seeking, however. A smart businessperson, financial services or other, considers a host of compensatory measures. Beyond commissions and renewals, considerations include:

1)      Leadership/management track potential

2)      Training and agency development programming opportunity  

3)      Comprehensive insurance benefits

Says Cohen, “We customize [compensation plans] to accommodate different producers with varying preferences. For example, a rookie agent will likely need a salary for a given time period until s/he gets rolling and starts seeing new business activity.”

Frank Mims V adds, “CP (compensation packages) must foster a worthwhile outlook to drive producers toward high achievement for the good of the company and themselves. Simply put: The wrong CP attracts the wrong brand of salesperson, and vice versa.”

3. Infrastructure and support

In today’s day and age, many producers take a robust support system for granted. “The 20th century mantra among salespeople was ‘Time is money,’” says Mr. Mims. “Today’s producer says ‘my time is my time.’ Moreover, the best salespeople today demand a support system that is well-trained and mistake-free. This is true at least among my clients in the engineering, accounting and legal services sectors.”

“Costs of operating add up. [Top advisors] want and need marketing programs and informational technology support,” adds Gil Cohen. “Supplies? Statistical research? Software to simulate product/plan performance? All these things are invaluable to clients and thus critical to a producer’s prosperity. None of this should be left on the back burner.”

4. Lead generation and marketing

Another key element an independent agent wants to check off his or her short list is lead generation. Some organizations will offer super-high payouts and the like, but leave the producer responsible for all public relations and lead generation.

Mr. Cohen feels the importance of marketing support can’t be stressed enough: “Even a big Fortune 100 company like MetLife constantly needs to stays visible; from million dollar television commercials to local community relations. This is difficult for an individual to match. Anything to maintain visibility and help a salesperson generate new business activity should be a consideration,” he contends.

5. Longevity and succession planning

A producer with a million dollar book of clients on cruise control might be making a move to simply hang a FINRA or insurance license and garner compliance support. For every other salesperson looking to move to a new professional home, house accounts or a longevity program of sorts is an important consideration.

Gil Cohen puts it this way: “In case you think otherwise, a lot of [top producers] work well into their 60s and want to retire. They also love the idea of passing on their knowledge in their respective specialty.”

A sales producer, of course, has to focus on growth. That goes without saying.

“Few organizations offer a formalized win-win succession system for their sales reps. And I’m talking Fortune 1000 companies here. I do not want to even speculate as to organizations with way fewer producers,” concludes Mr. Mims.

In short: More sales divisions should have this. Smart producers want to foresee balancing longevity and earning opportunity.

Financial advisors provide sound risk management in life and financial markets for clients. Those seeking a professional move should subscribe to their own advice: Manage risk by minding these rules for making a move to a new sales organization. 

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