By Linda Koco
WASHINGTON – Oct. 25, 2010 – The Great Collapse of the U.S. economy appears to be changing how the next sales generation — potential recruits in their 20s and early 30s – view careers in insurance sales, according to new research unveiled here at LIMRA’s annual meeting.
In three focus groups conducted earlier this year, LIMRA found that Gen-Nexters, college graduates in their early 20s and potential job-changers in the high 20s to early 30s, don’t necessarily view selling life insurance as a job of last resort as they did three years ago.
In fact, potential recruits are more forgiving of the perceived wrongdoings of the “few bad players” in financial services and insurance who were involved in most recent downturn, said Patrick T. Leary, assistant vice, president-distribution research for LIMRA. They believe the companies “just made some bad investments and they need to retool,” he said.
Stigma about insurance sales still exists, he allowed. But the polished, aggressive money chaser, such as Gordon Gekko, in the film Wall Street of the 1980s, is no longer someone they aspire to be, he said. Gen-Nexters are more temperate now compared to what they were in 2007, when LIMRA last studied them, he added. Their career is “no longer about, ‘when I make my first million,’ but rather, ‘when I get that first job,’ ” he said.
Further, some Gen-Nexters believe that the financial industry is getting the bad apples out of the business, so “now is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.”
Such changes in attitude and perception may help insurance firms that are looking to hire new sales recruits, indicated Delores R. Freitag, assistant vice president-assessment and development solutions.
LIMRA ‘s research found that Gen-Nexters want four ingredients in their careers, she pointed out. These are: connections (constant feedback, give-and-take, use of many communications channels); influence (want to contribute, be part of the team, make a difference, and have respect); stability (in income, their company, work-life balance, health and retirement benefits); and variety (want challenges, opportunities for learning, fun at work, cultural diversity).
If a company offers all that, would the candidates stay once hired? Yes, she said, the research indicates they will.
But it is up to the field leaders at the local level not just to promise those things to new recruits but also to deliver on it — “to live it, embrace it and communicate it,” she said.
They need to shift their perspective when dealing with the Next Generation, Freitag stressed.
For instance, it is important to stay engaged with the recruit after the person has been hired. If the engagement wanes, a new recruit may begin to look elsewhere, she said.
It’s also important to talk to with younger recruits about the things that interest them, she said. If a recruiter only describes a sales career in terms of money, being one’s own boss, prospecting/meeting new people, and the potential for great rewards, she said the candidate won’t hear about the opportunities the job offers for continued learning, teamwork, connecting, technology, or the other ingredients Gen-Nexters want.
A career in insurance sales does offer those other ingredients, Freitag indicated, but recruiters need to make that connection for the candidate. Managers need to retool their approaches so they articulate all these things, and then “be sure to live up to the vision,” she said.
Linda Koco is a contributing editor for InsuranceNewsNet, covering the latest from LIMRA’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.