For many years now I have felt that participation in the long term care planning industry as a producer, agency leader, senior sales leader, and now brokerage leader, has been tantamount to my being on a crusade. By definition a crusade is a “vigorous campaign for political, social, or religious change.” While my passion has remained largely the same, my paradigms and methodology have definitely changed over the years.
Today, I am willing to talk to anyone about the subject, far more willing to educate and raise awareness rather than merely being focused on a sale. I have been known to articulate that “I do not care whether they ever buy long term care insurance, but that they will not have taken a pass on it because they didn’t hear about it from me.” This is especially true among family, friends, neighbors, and those that I purportedly care about. I cannot think of a more tragic scenario than one in which I visit an individual who is now bedridden because of a stroke, illness, accident, or other physical malady, and have him or her look up at me and ask, “We have known each other for all of these years, and yet you never took the time to talk to me about the protections afforded by a long term care insurance policy.”
The first question I have for all those reading this missive is: Do the people closest to you even know what you do for a living? If asked, could your family, friends, neighbors accurately convey the expertise and services that you have at your disposal?
Secondly: How do you view yourself? Do you place the same value on your professional acumen as does a doctor, attorney, CPA, financial advisor? Having made the transition from practicing attorney-at-law to long term care producer, I can honestly say that I did not view myself one iota differently. I dressed the same way, placed the same value on my time, and believed that I possessed expertise that my clients desperately needed.
While there are significantly fewer carriers in the traditional, stand-alone long term care insurance space, there are infinitely more choices in terms of policy construction and platforms available with the advent of living benefits, asset-based products, as well as annuities and life insurance with long term care riders. If anything, all of these additional options make the choices presented to the consumer all the more confusing and potentially overwhelming, often leading to paralysis through analysis.
In a recent webinar that I conducted for members of our brokerage, I confirmed that perhaps the greatest challenge for them in terms of talking to prospects is how to begin the conversation.
In the course of this webinar, one brave and honest soul freely admitted in his answer to the first question, that “I haven’t done a good job at letting them know what I do and how I can help them!”
The conversation then pivoted on how to begin these conversations.
“Who do you know that has needed some form of assistance in their life? What was that like for them? Their family? How would a policy that provided financial and physical assistance have made a difference to them and their family?”
“Who are the two oldest people in your family? How old are they? Can you envision them needing some form of assistance with their own activities of daily living or because of their inability to be left alone from a safety standpoint? If these individuals could need assistance, can you envision a time that you or your spouse could require this care as well?
When interacting with professionals, tradesmen, and other individuals, I often begin the conversation with, “You have helped me immensely. I would love to reciprocate by helping you in a like manner. Have you considered how you can safeguard your retirement and family by performing some long term care planning while you are still safely in a non-crisis mode?”
Just this past week I was talking to my electrician who was doing some additional work in my home, and I casually asked him, “Is your retirement plan still on track, or did COVID-19 throw it off at all?” He then went on to share with me, with very few additional prompts from me, that his home was paid for, as were two rental properties, and that his accountant had recommended reorganizing his business as an S-corporation and various other tax modifications, and that things were very much on track in anticipation of a “semi-retirement” taking place at the end of the year.
After quietly but enthusiastically praising him for executing on the plans that we had talked about on and off over the years while he did work for me in my home, I pointed out that he was very much an aberration because quite a few people our age that I now encounter are refinancing their homes with new 30-year mortgages and, in the absence of pensions, were largely dependent upon Social Security for their retirement income.
He then added that he had done it without any health insurance in place for either himself or his employees. After a noncommittal grunt from me, he went on and shared that, but for the recent cash expenditure of $17,000 for some minor surgery (the hospital settled for 25 percent less if he was willing to write a check), they had largely “dodged the bullet” associated with major health issues.
While I was slightly stunned to hear this, I nonetheless kept marching forward and quietly shared that we were both approaching the age where the odds of needing a further “procedure” far more costly than his carpal tunnel surgery were about one in 15 and cited my own wife’s hip replacement surgery some six years ago. Despite only spending 26 hours in the hospital, the price tag for that surgery was in excess of $95,000! That certainly captured his attention as did my question, “What impact would it have on your plans for retirement if you or your wife needed to write a check for $6,000, $7,000, $8,000, or $10,000 each month for long term care? Would your plans go off the rails at that point?”
As you might expect, we are now looking at the calendar for a time when I can meet with both he and his wife after they have had a chance to discuss this potential fly in the ointment. Again, while I hope that they will allow me to assist them with this very necessary planning, if they do not elect to purchase a policy for themselves at least my conscience will be clear when I visit them at either their home or in a facility.
For years now I have encouraged producers to attend Business to Business (B2B) conferences, Chambers of Commerce fairs, and any other event in which you can meet other business leaders and simply ask them what they do for a living and how they do it. This will in turn allow you to share the why we do what we do for our clients.
Marry your passions with what you do professionally. Years ago I had a former member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America come work for me after he was forced to leave the tour to care for his ailing mother. He successfully merged his passion for golf and his new vocation as a LTCI producer by golfing regularly with different foursomes and, while out on the course, using these three hours to find what his fellow golfers did for a living and to share with them how he could help them secure their futures. This in turn led us to other marketing opportunities with the state golfing association.
One Last Thought
Do not hide your light. You are not doing the world or yourself any favors.
Referrals are not a favor that they are doing for you, but rather an opportunity for them to in turn help those that they care about the most.
“Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds.”—Matthew 5:15-16