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RISMedia, May 31 2011—Much has been written about how to recruit agents to join your company. But to attract and retain these candidates, you need to prepare your environment. Here are some important things to do before you recruit.

1. Decruit
Before you can accept new agents into your office, you must eliminate those who no longer produce or contribute. Think right now of someone whom you hope will leave your office by the time you finish reading this article. Now answer these two questions: Why do you want them to leave? Why do you keep them? Reasons for termination probably include poor performance, lack of participation in the office, avoidance of prospecting and negative attitude. You keep them because firing is difficult, you hope they might change, they’re nice people and you believe they’re not costing you anything.

Well, they are costing you something. They take your time, shift your attention, use up office supplies and set a low standard of performance expectations—and they deter your current agents from helping you acquire better talent.

Let go of this group of agents so you can free your mind, your office and your agents to bring in replacements. The example of the agents you want is set by the ones you keep.

2. Be the place to be
Having refined your team to the agents you want, it’s time to create an atmosphere and culture that attracts new talent. Said another way, recruit your own agents first. Focus your attention on improving your agents’ productivity and a creating a positive environment. Paul Herr, in his book “Primal Management,” presents the concept of servant leadership. He believes that if you take care of your agents, they will take care of their customers and you will make money.

Meet with each of your agents to determine their goals and work with them to create a plan to achieve them. As you provide leadership and accountability their performance will improve and they’ll tell the world about this great place to work.

3. Get your agents onboard with recruiting
Your best source of new talent is from your existing agents. Now that your team consists of productive people who are happy to be here, ask them for help in recruiting. Meet with each person and determine their attitude toward growing the office. Keep in mind, if they perceive it as a threat, then they’ll work against your efforts.

Here are some questions to ask: “How do you feel about me bringing additional agents to our team? What impact do you feel additional agents will have on your production? What do you think is the best way for me to grow the office? Would you be willing to help me find and recruit additional agents?”

Some agents fear getting a smaller piece of a fixed pie when new members arrive. They may also be threatened by more competition. Teach them that new agents bring their own “pie” to the game. If they fear increased competition, remind your agents that they’re already competing against them at their current company. Wouldn’t it be better to have them on the same team?

4. Target your candidates
If you’re recruiting experienced agents, assemble a list of those agents who meet your standards and fit your office culture. With your current agents on board, ask them for a list of agents whom they would like to have on the team. Design a plan for making that first contact and introduction.

Consider sending a hand written note telling the candidate that he or she was specifically recommended by your agent and ask for a time to meet. Perhaps the three of you get together for a casual lunch and get to know each other. Take it slow and be willing to build a relationship first. Only then will you be in a position to discuss a move to your office.

5. Have a training plan
Whether new or experienced, every agent requires the tools and techniques to compete in this challenging market. Have rookie meetings at the beginning of the week as well as regularly scheduled training sessions. Have a Lunch & Learn session for your top performers by invitation only. Be sure to include role plays in these meetings to insure actual behavior change instead of just intellectual understanding.

David Knox is the president of David Knox Productions, Inc. He has been training sales people for more than thirty years as a national training director, CRS Instructor and national speaker.

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