“We can do most things either the easy way or the hard way. We always have that choice. Marketing to professionals is most assuredly the easy way.”
In last month’s article we covered many of the “ground rules” necessary to make a strategic partnership successful. This month we are going to talk about perhaps the most important ingredient: Commitment.
Implementing the tenets of Marketing to Professionals on behalf of myself or my agents has been a personally rewarding experience over the years. As a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks I know that these relationships either flourish or wither on the vine depending upon mutual expectations and commitment among partners, and the presence of both a business plan and a marketing plan.
Since you have already been through the home interview equivalent of Warm Up while initially setting this appointment or being introduced to one another, it is now time to move to the Need section of the interview and obtain answers from your prospective strategic partner to the following questions:
“John, why am I here today? What is the main reason that you want to introduce the protection afforded by long term care insurance to your clients?”
After asking these questions, sit back, close your mouth, and open your ears. Take notes as you would with a client interview and let the professional provide you with the “why” or the purpose of your partnership. The why may range from wanting to protect their clients’ assets, to safeguarding their own professional income strategies, or to shelter themselves from the ancillary liability of being in a fiduciary relationship with their client. The reasons will vary. The importance of this step is ascertaining their motivation by slowly peeling the onion.
We also want to know if the advisor has had any personal experience with long term care in either his family or with any of his existing clients. Over the years I have found that there is nothing more powerful than a personal witness of the devastating effects of caregiving on a family. Where this experience is present, the advisor will be a true believer and in turn possess the urgency to bring this vital protection to his clientele. If he has dealt with this in his immediate family, we want to personalize it by having him bring the past to the present by relating his role in this experience:
- How did he feel when confronted with this issue?
- Who was the person who required caregiving?
- Who provided this caregiving?
- How long did it go on?
- Who bore the burden of the expense?
- Was he personally involved in the caregiving?
- How did it impact his life?
- What was his role?
- Where did it take place?
In any event, we want to bring him back to the event much in the same manner that we do with a client! If he has experienced this caregiving with a client, we want to know:
- What was it like for the family and for the client?
- What role did he serve in the process? How did this make him feel?
- What impact did it have on his practice or firm?
- What was the ultimate financial outcome for the client and for his firm?
Of paramount importance is the question of whether he has his own long term care policy. If he does, why? If not, why not? Just as with the client, we need to know the level of commitment this person has to our product, the degree of need he associates with it, and the level of urgency he will convey to those who will hopefully become your mutual clients.
Over the years I have loved to accompany an agent to these meetings, because as the “outsider” to the budding relationship I can often say and do things that the agent cannot do for herself.
To this end, I will often orchestrate where everyone sits just as we take charge in the Home Interview with clients. Why is where people sit important? Because my objective when accompanying an agent to these preliminary meetings is to help forge not only a working relationship but a true partnership of equals.
For this reason, if we are sitting in a restaurant or coffee house, I will endeavor to have them sit together on the same side of the booth or to position their chairs at the table so that they are sitting near one another, and I am across from them. I never want it to appear that it is a two-on-one in our favor, but rather that they are the team, and I am the odd man out. We never want our agent to feel subordinate to the financial professional but rather an equal in terms of professional acumen and technical ability. Our greatest commodity is, in fact, our expertise and advice which is why we should all be thinking in terms of offering solutions and not product.
I will then say to the advisor, “John, the relationship that you are contemplating with Jane will either flourish or wither on the vine dependent upon two things: Mutual expectations and commitment. The mutual expectations can be defined in terms of a business plan which may be as simple as, ‘How many clients do you want to help each year?’ or, ‘How much money do you want to make?’ and a marketing plan which will define the ‘how to’ associated with getting Jane in front of your clients so that she can be the point of sale subject matter expert in regard to long term care insurance products. We’ll talk about these two plans shortly.” (We will address the business plan, and the mechanics of the marketing plan, in subsequent articles.)
We will then continue to wear the “black hat” and carry the water by addressing commitment so that the advisor is fully aware of the level of the agent’s commitment to making this relationship a successful one and to take another barometer reading in terms of the advisor’s own commitment.
“Before we talk about these plans however, we believe that it would be appropriate to talk about the commitment requisite to making this relationship a success. Allow me to illustrate how we define commitment by sharing a story with you…”
“Farmer Brown had a wonderful farm on which he grew a number of different crops and had a great many animals. He and his family were largely self-sufficient and took pride in the fact that they could feed themselves with a well-rounded diet. The Browns took good care of their livestock, and in some cases, they were as much a part of the family as were the family dogs and cats. One day, out in the barnyard, the Cow, the Chicken, and the Pig were having a conversation about their commitment to the Brown family.
“You know, I really like the Browns. As people go, they are okay in my book. That is why I provide them with Grade A quality eggs for the breakfast table 365 days a year. Nothing is too good for the Browns,” said the Chicken. “Oh yeah? You call laying some eggs commitment? That’s easy stuff! Where do you think the milk, the butter, and the cheese that they eat every day comes from, hmm?” asked the Cow. The pig, in the meantime, was being reflective as he listened to this exchange, and after scratching his chin with his hoof, said, “I gotta tell you both, you both have it pretty easy. Eggs, milk, cheese, butter. Big deal. You want real commitment? Me and the other boys are providing the bacon for breakfast and the ham for Sunday Supper! That ladies, is real commitment.”
At this point, I will look the advisor in the eye and state, “Jane is committed to this relationship. I have seen her deliver the utmost of commitment and technical expertise to other partners over the years in a very consistent and professional manner.”
“So, John, how would you categorize yourself in terms of commitment to this relationship? Are you the chicken, the cow, or the pig? How committed are you to this new partnership? Jane is going to do everything humanly possible to be another professional member of your team that will always place the interests of your client ahead of everything else, and to be a natural complement to you and to make you look good to your clients.”
Some might think this a juvenile approach, but historically great lessons have been taught in parables, and this is a modern-day parable that I have used for many years with a great deal of success.
Once you know that the professional is committed to the concept of long term care insurance, then we can proceed to develop the business and marketing plans which will provide the framework of the partnership and establish milestones, the adherence to which will insure success of the venture, but, most importantly, provide a new generation of clients with the protection they so sorely need today to safeguard their tomorrows.
- Commitment is everything; without it we have nothing more than an illusion.
- As with our clients, partners who have been “touched” by these (long term care) experiences make better partners.
- It’s a numbers game; just as with selling, not every prospective partner appointment is going to be a match. It all boils down to Need, Urgency, Value…and Commitment.