Disability Insurance Forum

    According to these successful marketers, there are endless possibilities for growth and success in the DI business.

    Q: What led you to specialize in the DI market?

    Mike Eskra: Upon graduating from St. Bonaventure University with a BS degree in economics and a field of concentration in industrial management and labor relations, I started in the disability income market by accident. As a distinguished military graduate, I planned to make the Army my career, but an accident left me physically unable to pass the induction exam. As luck would have it, I was unable to find a job in my chosen field.

    Then, quite by accident, I met representatives from the CNA in a bar one afternoon. They suggested that I interview with them. I did and was offered a position as a “special agent” to market disability income and hospitalization products to the small business community through their brokerage operation. The product portfolio (wholesale/franchise) was designed for payroll deduction plans for employer/employee groups with at least three acceptable applicants. This was the beginning of my love affair with the disability industry that continues to be true today.

    Eugene Cohen: After college I took a job that was not to my liking. I needed a career that was stimulating and one in which I could chart my own course. I interviewed for sales jobs and was most impressed with the idea of selling disability income protection insurance. Although I majored in finance at Ohio State University, disability income protection was a new concept to me.

    Once I became aware of this insurance, I quickly realized that everyone I knew and everyone I saw (who worked) needed this protection and was a potential client. Because I believed so strongly in the need for disability income protection, it was easy for me to become a disability insurance specialist.

    I found my niche market and soon discovered that knowledge is power. As few individuals specialized in disability insurance, it was easy for me to obtain appointments with professionals. Also, asking for referrals became part of my repertoire, and those referrals made my sales soar.

    My experiences with meeting people and selling them disability income protection has given me so much satisfaction because I have not just filled a need in their lives…I have given them peace of mind.

    Q: How do you prospect for clients?

    Eskra: As a member of DIBROKER, a national disability income marketing organization, we develop relationships with insurance agents and financial planners throughout the United States. We provide them with disability income products, training, point-of-sale assistance, and whatever services they need to properly protect their clients’ income risks.

    Cohen: As we are a brokerage agency, our clients are independent life agents, career agents, casualty agencies and broker/dealers. Brokers utilize our agency for life, long term care, fixed annuities and disability income protection.

    The Eugene Cohen Insurance Agency, Inc. has been specializing in the above for more than 30 years. This enables our agency’s name to be identified with having the knowledge to help agents navigate through the everyday cases as well as the more challenging disability income protection and life insurance cases.

    Word of mouth as well as advertising in insurance publications brings new clients to our agency.

    Q: What are the most challenging issues for your practice today?

    Eskra: Over the past several years many companies who offered their own DI portfolio have exited the disability income arena. This has not only left a product void, but a void in promoting awareness of the severe consequences of not insuring your most valuable asset—your income. Along with this void comes the general lack of training available in the insurance industry, which presents a formidable challenge to all who operate in the DI brokerage arena today.

    Cohen: The most challenging issue today is getting brokers interested in showing their clients the need for disability income protection.

    In past years, many companies had disability portfolios. Disability income protection was a priority and, therefore, agents were taught the concept and language of contracts by career shops.

    Today, in addition to informing brokers that there is a need for this coverage, a brokerage agency has the additional challenge of helping the agents understand the basics of disability income protection and then encouraging them to go out and sell it. We tell our agents: The agents who are successful are the agents who take the time to ask clients about disability income protection.

    Q: What are some of the client objections you hear and how do you respond?

    Eskra: Too often many individuals fail to realize just how important their income is. Many place buying disability income protection as “probably a good thing to have,” but place more concerns about insuring their home or their car—both of which are replaceable if they continue to work and earn an income. Addressing these issues properly usually results in creating the need that leads to the solution—buying DI.

    Another objection that occurs frequently is: “It costs too much.” Sometimes we design disability income plans that are unreasonable. Establishing what the “cost tolerance” of your client is along with comparing the cost of disability income protection with other items that the prospect freely spends for can be helpful.

    Cohen: I have heard brokers say they are too busy with life insurance, major medical insurance and casualty insurance to get into disability income protection with their clients. We handle this objection by telling brokers that this is a key issue in financial planning. Following is a sales approach we have found successful.

    Broker: “What is the longest vacation you have ever taken?” The client’s answer is usually two or three weeks.

    Broker: “Why do you limit your vacation to two or three weeks?” The reply is usually, “That is the longest I can afford to be out of work.”

    Bingo! The perfect opening for the next question:
    Broker: “What would you do for income if you had a serious illness or accident that took you out of work for two or three years? Would you have an income problem?” Most likely a client will say “yes” and that is when you say we need to talk.

    Q: Considering that many are working beyond the “traditional” retirement age, how old is “too old” for disability insurance?

    Eskra: The disability income industry has made significant changes in being able to underwrite an older age group. Today companies are offering disability income protection products to older age. Lloyd’s has also developed products for the “older ages.” This trend should continue as more and more workers continue to work for years beyond age 65.

    Cohen: Disability income protection should protect one’s income. I believe that as the “traditional” retirement age becomes obsolete, the manufacturers of disability income insurance should investigate ways to offer income protection and adjust the writing age to what they consider to be feasible.

    Cohen: One final thought, the need for disability income protection is as strong today as it was in 1963 when I started in the insurance industry.

    The same teaching mechanisms are not in place today. Today very few agents or brokers specialize in disability income protection. The need is great and the sales force is few.

    Brokerage agencies are available to educate brokers about disability income protection policies and to teach brokers how to prospect, get referrals and answer objections.

    The need for individual disability insurance has not changed—the market is wide open to brokers who are willing to become involved.

    Eugene began his insurance industry career in Cleveland, OH, with a company that specialized in disability income protection.

    In 1981 Cohen founded the Eugene Cohen Insurance Agency, Inc., Skokie, IL, which specializes in DI, life, LTCI, fixed annuities, and impaired risk cases. The agency is a member of LifeMark Partners, NAILBA, the IDIS and is a founding member of The Plus Group.

    Cohen received the W. Harold Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award from the IDIS and NAILBA’s Douglas Mooers Award for Excellence.

    Eugene can be reached at Eugene Cohen Insurance Agency, Inc. Telephone: 800-333-4340. Website: www.cohenagency.com. Email: eugene@cohenagency.net.

    DIBROKER/Eskra and Associates

    Michael J. Eskra, CLU, RHU, entered the insurance business in 1961 with Provident Life & Accident. He established Eskra & Associates, Inc., in 1991 and DIBROKER, a national disability marketing organization, in 2002.Eskra is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a BS in economics and a distinguished ROTC graduate. He is past president of the Miami chapter of the Society of Financial Services Professionals, the Gold Coast chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters, and The Plus Group. A member of the Miami Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the International Association for Financial Planning, and the General Agents and Managers Association, Eskra is national liaison for the Society of Financial Services Professionals, as well as regional liaison of the Gold Key Society for that group.Eskra can be reached at Eskra & Associates, Inc., 100 Miracle Mile, #250, Coral Gables, FL 33134. Telephone: 305-448-0100. Website: www.dibroker.com.