Choosing Your Strategic Partners

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him. —David Brinkley

I have long been a proponent of building a long term care insurance practice by generating selling opportunities through strategic partnerships with other legal and financial professionals. This is in contrast to fostering a reliance on company—or internet—generated leads. However, I want to clarify that these relationships must be with the right partners that share the same fundamental paradigms or it will be a tremendous waste of your time, energy, and resources.

Just as it is important to discover what is motivating the client to investigate long term care insurance as a potential solution to their long term care planning needs and financial strategies, it is equally important to discover the why a professional partner may be seeking to work with you!

  • Is it to protect their clients and their families?
  • Is it to safeguard his own professional cash flow?
  • Is it simply an alternate or additional income stream for the professional in what might be a down market?
  • Is it to ward off potential liability down the road for when these clients go into a care situation that warrants the liquidation of their assets and they or their heirs may be less than pleased and initiate legal action against the professional?

This last option has become far more prevalent as the courts have been extremely critical of both the advice a professional does and does not tender to a client! The big question for all of us is whether the heirs are going to find our business card in the safe deposit box attached to key documents? If so, will they write us a thank you note or a legal complaint?

In any event, do not be in any great hurry to forge a relationship with another professional. What? Turn down the opportunity to add someone to my network of strategic partners? Yes. The reason is that it might not be a good fit, and you could waste valuable time and resources pursuing a relationship that will not bear fruit or could even be counterproductive in terms of your brand development.

For example, if this professional does not personally own a long term care policy himself/herself, odds are against them being a strong advocate of the product with their clients. To this end, even if they recommend it to their clients and do not own it themselves, when asked by a client about their own coverage, odds are there is not going to be a sale made unless the professional does not qualify for the coverage—which becomes a strong positive message to the client.

In the event the professional does not own a policy, the next step is to suggest that he and his spouse sit with you for a [mock] home interview under the guise of learning exactly what you will be doing with their clients. If this interview takes place and they opt to purchase a plan, then you have hit the mother lode! There is no greater advocate than a convert. This is also an opportunity to build some goodwill for the partnership by offering to either allow them to submit the application over their own signature (assuming that they are properly licensed) or sharing the commission.

If they refuse to sit with you, the word “next” should flash through your mind, because this dog is not going to hunt!

For the most part you are going to discover that these professionals care about their clients as much as we care about ours, and they have a great affinity to protecting them from forces that can harm them. As a result of this concern, they are going to want to address the issue of long term care with their clients. They may very well already be doing it during annual interviews. Our experience has been that while they care enough to broach the subject, they simply lack the skill set and/or knowledge that you possess to adequately educate the clients and assist them in making an informed decision that results in action.

Some professionals you encounter may be suspicious of your intentions. They may have been inundated by other insurance professionals offering an array of products to their clients. Some may be leery of you and view you as an interloper only interested in gaining access to their book of business. On this point be very clear—we are not interested in their books of business. We do not want their client list or to engage in cold calls that we find frustrating and often the client finds aggravating and may cause harm to their existing relationship. Rather, we want to offer the professional a turn-key marketing system by which they can bring the protections afforded by a long term care insurance policy to their clients by making you a trusted member of his or her staff. This is a different mindset that we have found to be very disarming, if not down right shocking to the professional. Try it, it works.

If you meet a professional who is simply in it for the money, we call this person the Mercenary. That may work for you, but you must insure from the beginning the degree of their commitment. Later, when we talk about how we present the professional with the opportunity to earn up to 50 percent of the sale, we must know that they and their staff are going to fully engage in our newly formed partnership and not merely pay lip service to it.

For those who are simply looking to expand the scope of their practice with additional product offerings, that is okay as well. The key is to ensure that they understand that unlike disability or a Medicare supplement, this is decidedly not a commodity sale. While some clients will choose to buy purely on the recommendation of the professional, in most cases if they do not in their heart of hearts feel the need for this additional insurance platform they are not going to buy. For this reason you must ensure that the professional is “trained up” to understand just how important a LTCI policy is to the plan that he/she is preparing for their client, and they must sincerely believe that it is an integral part of this plan.

Just as with our clients, the professional must recognize and feel the need, the urgency, and recognize the value of our product if this is going to be a viable partnership.

If you are working with a professional who is not life and health insurance licensed, and therefore ineligible to receive a portion of generated commissions, you may be able to offer them other forms of non-compensation such as the sponsorship of client appreciation events, referral events, educational workshops, etc., the cost of which you bear in exchange for the opportunity to educate their clients. We will share more on this later as well.

Like everything else, none of this is going to work for you unless you make the commitment to becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur. As such, you will engage in marketing, networking, and prospecting as these activities become less an event and more a way of life.

Take Aways:

  • It is critical to acknowledge the goals and objectives of the Professional Partner.
  • As with our clients, it is all about creating Need, Urgency and Value.
  • It must be the right relationship…do not be afraid to say “next” while marketing to professionals.

(Excerpted from The Right Combination by Don Levin and Todd Bothwell© 2014. All Rights Reserved.)

Don Levin, JD, MPA, CLF, CSA, LTCP, CLTC, is chairman of the board of the National Long Term Care Network and the managing general agent of PNW Insurance Services, a national brokerage which offers long term care insurance, short term recovery care, life insurance and annuities to the general public across the country. The long term care planning specialists and staff of PNWIS are proud to offer comprehensive individualized planning solutions to their clients while also working through a strategic alliance of financial planners, estate planning and elder law attorneys, CPAs, and other businesses and organizations.

Levin has been in the long term care industry since 1999, during which time he has been an award-winning agent, district manager, regional sales manager, marketing director, associate general agent, general agent, and divisional vice president. Levin is also a former practicing Attorney-at-Law, court-appointed arbitrator and is a retired U.S. Army officer.

In addition to his various law and life and health insurance licenses, and the above designations, Levin has also earned Green Belt certification through GE’s Six Sigma program, and is a graduate of GAMA International’s Essentials of Leadership and Management. He has also taught Managing Goal Achievement®, Integrity Selling® and The Way to Wealth® to hundreds of leaders and salespeople over the past fifteen years. He previously possessed FINRA Series 7, 24, and 66 licenses.

Levin earned his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School, his MPA, from the University of Oklahoma, and his BA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Defense Strategy Course, U.S. Army War College.

He is a published author of nine books in a wide range of genre.

Levin may be reached via telephone at (509) 348-0206. Email: dlevin@pnwis.com.