In a recent article about the latest "Forces of Change" study from LIMRA, the insurance research and consulting organization based in Windsor, Conn., author Lucian Lombardi, LIMRA’s vice president and director, distribution and strategic research, laid out seven trends affecting insurance distribution.
Among the biggest is one that's been discussed for years: the aging field force. Now the median age of advisers and sales reps stands at 52 years, a fact that prompted Lombardi to write, "The aging field force can no longer be ignored!" More alarming, he concludes, "The insurance and financial services industry does not have enough new entrants learning the profession to replace those who will be exiting the profession." And getting the newcomers to stick with it is another critical challenge.
Can you meet the challenges with well-designed incentive conferences? Another recent LIMRA study suggests that you can. "The Cost of Paradise: Multiple-line Company and Agent Perspectives on Incentive Conferences and Recognition Programs," found that younger agents are precisely the ones who are most motivated by incentive contests. Almost nine out of 10 agents under age 40 worked toward conference qualification in 2008. Those are the go-getters your company needs to fill the sales ranks. (The 350 respondents were a mix of independents and company employees.)
"Incentive conferences can play a role in retaining sales talent. Our research shows that younger agents value incentive conferences and contests, and they can be used to help motivate sales reps," says Patrick Leary, associate managing director, distribution research, at LIMRA. He notes that incentive programs are having a tough moment. "In the current environment, it is critical that meetings include educational components, given the heightened sensitivity and media scrutiny around these events," Leary says. That’s one reason to boost the learning sessions on your agenda. It also happens to be what agents want.
Yes, their top reason for attending incentive conferences is for the all-expenses-paid vacation. But close behind is the chance for education and to learn from top agents. In fact, for agents with eight to 10 years of experience—"those who are in the prime of building their businesses," notes LIMRA’s Laura Murach, who wrote the survey report—the top reason for conference attendance was to gain insight from top agents. When designing programs, Murach advises, "take a step back and look at the makeup of your field force. Don’t try to please everyone."
Not that incentives are a magic bullet. "Incentive conferences are just one piece of the puzzle in attracting and retaining talent," says Leary. "They are not the driver of whether they will join an organization, or the deciding factor in whether they will move on to other opportunities." Nevertheless, the competition for top sales talent is fiercer than ever. Incentive contests that promise amazing experiences, high-quality education, and plenty of time for agent networking could give your company the edge.