A Sidekick's Blog

A Word to Insurance Company Recruiters | June 6, 2015

A Word to Insurance Recruiters: It’s Not a Job, It’s a Business!

I am left open-mouthed when I meet some of the people recently recruited as independent agents for the insurance company I represent. A number of these folks seem to think they’ve been hired at a job, rather than invited to start their own business. I must admit, I started the same way. But I quickly came to understand that being an independent insurance agent is not a job. There’s no hourly wage, no boss to report to. My pay depends on a great investment of both money and time. It took me two months to get any return on my investment, since I couldn’t invest at least 8-10 hours a day for weeks just to build a base from which to work.

I didn’t tell my recruiter how desperate for money I was. Like many Americans, one or two paychecks away from homelessness. I needed a paycheck immediately. Another new recruit I met this week is using a borrowed car with only a half tank of fuel, living with relatives, and desperate for a fast buck. It’s not going to happen. If this were a regular job, maybe in a week or two. But this is your own business. You have to spend money to make any. You have to invest time (in training, prospecting, licensing), and money (in gas for getting to the training, meetings, and prospects; in appropriate clothing, sturdy shoes that get worn out going door to door; in the little trinkets that make approaching businesses effective). Why was someone like this kid recruited anyway? Why wasn’t he (nor I too for that matter) told that this opportunity is a big investment with the promise of handsome returns if one has the time and money to invest in starting their own business? The newest recruit is a nervous, awkward, clueless nerd who wore the same outfit to work three days in a row. He couldn’t sell insurance any more than I could fly to the moon. Stringing him along is a cruel waste of his time.

It’s cheaper to retain good people than to hire new ones. And it’s reasonable to expect a recruiter to explain the nature of the opportunity, rather than to set needy people up to fail and leaving them worse off than before. Recruiters, take note: Most people – especially kids right out of school – don’t have a clue what being an independent insurance agent entails. Do a little screening before you have a needy person sign a contract, willya? Insurance agents can’t invest the time and money they should to succeed when they’re counting pennies and worried about late rent, having utilities cut off, cars repossessed, and money just to eat and buy gas to get to work. Don’t sell Independent Insurance Agent as “a job.” It’s an opportunity – and a great one! But it isn’t for “job seekers.” Do yourself – and the rest of us – a big favor by recruiting honestly and choosing new recruits wisely and with kindness. Don’t bring on a clueless newcomer to compete with your experienced agents in the same market. It’s cruel, and it’s plain stupid. Too much is invested in training new agents to see it all get flushed because a recruit wasn’t told what he’s getting into.  An agent can’t follow through on accounts he creates if his car has been repossessed by the time they finally “pull the trigger” and arrange an enrollment, or he has run it out of gas, or his electricity has been turned off, or he’s answering an eviction notice.

Wednesday I’m starting a new job. A regular job with a regular paycheck. My sales coordinators won’t like it, but I’ve got to go part time as an agent, and full time at a job that can keep the bills paid. Technically they can’t “fire” me since I’m an independent agent; my own “boss,” so to speak. But it’s likely they’ll “encourage” me to turn all my accounts over to someone else and quit altogether. That’s okay with me.  I’ve only actually closed one account, and my commission was a three-way split between a broker and another agent. So no big loss.

Back to the regular workforce, with a regular paycheck, for a regular guy.  I gave it a good shot and it was worth it, but insurance sales is a cutthroat business with great potential for high income – and along with it high responsibility, high competition, high drama, and high risk.  It’s not for the timid.  And not for needy, clueless kids like “John” who stand no chance of making it in such a high-pressure cutthroat business.  I know that my regional and district sales coordinators are required to regularly recruit a certain number of new agents every month, but the rush for “good numbers” should not leave such tragedy in it’s wake.  While the company I represent has won awards for being among the most ethical companies in America, this recruiting game is, to be blunt, unethical and cruel when the numbers come to matter more than the people who get recruited.



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