The “Way” of Agency Building at American Income Life

Treasue map to success with American Income LifeAgency building is a discipline.  There may be no other discipline at American Income Life more important than the agency building process.  While one might say agency building begins with strong recruiting/hiring systems as well as phenomenal new agent training and development processes, the discipline of agency building starts with people.

This brief is intended to help us define what agency building is and how to establish the “WAY” of agency building early in a new agent’s relationship with American Income Life.  Since we focus on hiring, recruiting and developing potential future agency builders it is imperative for us to properly position this career path within the vision of the new agent.  If our objective is to get the majority of new agents into the agency building process we must become experts at helping them understand:

  • What agency building really is
  • Why they desire to engage the agency building career path
  • What leadership qualities are required to be a successful agency builder
  • What it means to “own” their hierarchy
  • That building an agency is not about THEM.  It is about serving the people who have hired them to teach, demonstrate and validate how to be successful in our business
American Income Life VP Agency Leadership Development Larry Strong

Larry Strong - American Income Life VP Agency Leadership Development

Before we outline the process, the first question we need to address is when do we establish the “WAY” to new agents?  While you will need to determine that for yourself it is my opinion that this conversation needs to happen as early in the new agent’s career with American Income Life as possible.  I think the release meeting is an optimal place to do this—right after they have demonstrated their capacity to give an adequate sales presentation.

 I believe the worst time is right before they are signing an agency building contract.  I see way too many agents on agency building contracts that don’t really have a clue as to what their role is.  In some cases these agents don’t really desire to build or lack the willingness to do what is required to build.  They may want the higher contract but they are confused about what is expected.  A confused agent or builder is unacceptable and in some cases we have not done an adequate job of positioning the “WAY”.  No wonder some of them are confused!  Let us remember, Building Contracts are NOT PERSONAL PRODUCTION contracts.  The only purpose of an Agency Building Contract is to develop a successful hierarchy—period.  Is personal production required along the way?  Yes.  But the means to the end not the end.



We talk a lot about it but there must be a general consensus of exactly what the agency building process is.  At Leadership Academy 101 I define agency building as:

“The intentional process of transferring your influence, skills and experience to others in order to demonstrate and validate a pathway to success.”

We must help the new agent understand WHAT agency building is before we can even discuss WHY they may want to build.  And this definition lays out some expectations.


The process is intentional.

It doesn’t happen by osmosis.  It is an everyday deal.

The influence, skills and experience must be transferred to others.

The “WAY” of agency builders requires the ability to transfer to others or duplicate ourselves through other people.  Building starts when this happens.

Agency building is not just a matter of telling.

New agents must see success and that requires demonstrating and validating.

Every new agent will never forget who field trained them.


“So, ___________, based on what you understand up to this point through the hiring, selection and recruiting process, do you see yourself aspiring to become an agency builder or career agent?  Of course the given is that our first objective is to successfully teach you how to be successful at our business—to do what you ‘hired’ us to do.”

Response:  “Well, if all goes well I definitely want to build an agency.”

“Excellent!  We believe that the “WHY” is as important, if not more than, the “WHAT” so let me ask you, WHY DO YOU DESIRE TO BECOME AN AGENCY BUILDER WITH US?”

Possible responses: (We may need to keep asking questions to help the process.)

  • I really have a passion for helping people
  • I have previous leadership experience
  • Greater income potential
  • I want to grow with the organization
  • Security (people producing even if I can’t)
  • I love the challenge
  • I want to make a positive difference in people’s lives
  • Leave a legacy

(It is really important to spend a lot of time on the “WHY” because you may need to circle back sooner than you wish to ask them, “Are you sure you really want to build?”)

“Those are all great reasons to consider the agency building path and pretty much the ones our potential builders share.  But you have left one out that I think may be important.  Want to give it a shot?  (Let them think and some will get this but most won’t)

“Well, one of the best reasons to build a very successful hierarchy and multiple other agency builders within it is so that you don’t have to rely on your personal production for your income.  Wouldn’t it be great to eventually be in the field only because you WANT to versus having to for your personal production and income?  Now let me make sure I don’t confuse you here—the best way to work your way OUT of the field is to be IN the field building a successful hierarchy of producing agents and builders.  And our job is to help you do just that!  Does this make sense?



“Now that we have identified WHY you want to build an agency, what kind of leadership qualities do you think are going to be required to build a successful hierarchy of producing agents and other builders?”

Hopeful Responses:  (Again, you may need to keep asking good questions)

  • Lead by example (focus on your standard or staying at 15% bonus)
  • Able to hold people accountable in the right way
  • I have to really care about people’s success
  • I can’t let people fail or underperform for very long without offering solutions
  • I have to be good at coaching and be willing to have sometimes hard conversations
  • I have to be willing to get “close” with my people
  • I have to garner respect
  • I have to be able to help my people get what THEY want instead of focusing on what I want
  • I have to be secure enough with myself to surround myself with other great leaders
  • I have to be willing to identify conflict when it occurs and successfully resolve it rather than ignore it or hope it goes away

“These are all great qualities and ALL are required to become a successful agency builder.  We have a weekly Leadership Development workshop that addresses all of these and more.  Can we count on you being a part of that meeting during your new agent training process?”



“Let me ask you what may sound like a strange question at this point.  To become a successful agency builder you will want to have full and complete OWNERSHIP of your hierarchy.  What do you think that means?”

Responses:  (Keep asking good questions to get desired responses)

  • I need to see myself as a “partner” in the agency
  • I need to understand that I am responsible in everything that happens within my hierarchy
  • I need to see it as my own business as an independent contractor
  • It will reflect my personality
  • It will have a unique culture
  • I need to see it
  • Even though it will be part of your agency it is still actually “mine”
  • It will be my responsibility to recruit to it, nurture it, build it and develop it into a successful hierarchy of agents producing business and other people who want to build

“These are great responses and you have a good understanding of what we mean by OWNERSHIP.  Make no mistake, our mission is to help you build it but we want you to have a real sense of owning your own hierarchy.  The more you own it and take personal responsibility for it the stronger and more successful it will become!


“Leadership and the agency building process are very important to us because our ability to grow is tied to both.  So even at this early stage of your relationship with us it is important for you to understand the two most important objectives our builders have.  Quite simply they are:  A) To increase the number of agents submitting business in their hierarchy and B) develop other agency builders who desire to build their own hierarchy.  Do these two primary objectives make sense?”  “Pretty hard NOT to grow when these 2 things happen right?”

“The two keys to both of these happening are: A) strong hiring and recruiting systems in place and B) phenomenal new agent training systems in place that get new agents to 15% bonus and keeps them there.  Basically, when we do a great job of showing others our opportunity and then teach them how to become successful we end up with more people like you who want to build.  Not very complicated is it?”



“So what does all this mean?  Well, we are going to give you the best leadership and training we can.  And as you give us your best, we may very well find ourselves talking about getting you involved in the agency building process in A MATTER OF WEEKS.  That is why we wanted to have this conversation NOW rather than the point in time where you BECOME ELIGIBLE FOR CONSIDERATION FOR OUR FIRST AGENCY BUILDING CONTRACT.


When this happens we will sit down briefly again to discuss where you are at, if you still desire to build and why, what it takes, why you think you have what it takes and so on.  Does this make sense?  So in the meantime, let’s make sure we are all doing what it takes to help you get in position to win.”


“Are you ready to win?”


“Great.  And remember, we ONLY win when you win so let me recommit to you that we are going to do everything we can to show you how to become successful with us and also be willing to help you make adjustments RIGHT AWAY if we think we need to in order to help you.  This makes sense right?”


“Great!  Let’s win together!”

About Mark Ting

Mark Ting is a Staff Writer at Torchmark Corporation, writing about American Income Life and National Income Life Insurance Companies. Google+

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