Getting Past The Gatekeeper

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than the ones that you did do.” –Mark Twain

So, you have conducted a home interview and successfully educated the clients and helped them make an informed decision to purchase traditional or non-traditional long term care insurance. You may have even sold them some life insurance or an annuity with which to pay for the long-term care policy, and even though they reaped immense value from your time together, they were still reluctant to provide any personal introductions to either family or friends.

The good news is that they did give you the name and telephone number of both their financial advisor and estate planning attorney. So, what do you do with those professional referrals that everyone will most assuredly provide you?

When you pick up the phone and dial the number on the business card that your client has thoughtfully provided you, as well as permission to use their name, a live person answers the phone and you very quickly grasp that it is an administrative assistant, secretary, office manager or, in other words, the gatekeeper!

The Gatekeeper. We all have one or wish that we did. They provide a valuable service in shielding the professional from unwanted solicitations and interruptions.

So how does one get past the gatekeeper? It is easy. In your most professional and casual voice you are going to say “(insert your name) for John Smith please.” When he/she immediately reacts with his/her trained instincts and further queries “What is this in regard to?” you are going to say quietly and firmly, “Mike and Mary Client.” Often, her reply will be a very subdued, if not cordial, “One moment please.”

After a brief pause, this should then be followed by another voice coming on the line, namely that of the planner/attorney/advisor, John Smith. The next move is yours and is truly a lot of fun, and goes something like this: “Hi John, (insert your name) here. I am a long term care planning specialist with XYZ Insurance, and I had the pleasure of meeting with Mike and Mary Client last evening and boy do they think the world of you! I mentioned that I have the need of a financial advisor in this area because I sometimes have clients who will ask me for a referral, and when Mike and Mary heard this, they made me promise that I would call you today!

Naturally the professional on the other end of the line is flattered, and even if other insurance producers have approached him, you have been referred by valued clients of his and he must give you the time of day. There may or may not be a response from him at this point. If there is, it will be geared towards your [now] mutual client.

“So, John, before I waste your time, or mine, are you accepting new clients?” This will naturally relax him just as warm up is designed to do in the home interview with the client. Now, unless he is at the end of his career and has no desire to implement a succession plan, he will undoubtedly be more than receptive to the idea of additional clients. Please note that we are not promising anything at this point, and merely making a natural inquiry as to whether he would entertain additional clients.

Just as we do not sell to the client on the phone, we also do not “sell” to the advisor on the phone. The purpose of this call, as with any lead, is purely to obtain a firm qualified appointment with a partner that is qualified and eager to see us.

“John, because of Mike and Mary’s recommendation of you, as well as your interest in taking on additional clientele, I would very much like to meet with you to find out just exactly the type of client you are looking for demographically, because I would not want to send you the wrong type of client. I also want to spend some time with you to determine whether it would be a good fit for you and me to work together. Quite frankly, I have clients and other professionals provide me with introductions all the time, and sometimes it takes me back to the nightmares of blind dating. I am going to be in your area both Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, are mornings or afternoons better for you?”

Sound familiar? The old either/or close is designed to keep them choosing between Option A and Option B, resulting in the desired response: An appointment. This appointment can be in the office, for a breakfast or lunch, a cup of coffee, or a drink at the end of the day. That is entirely up to you. The reference to the blind dating is of course designed to be a takeaway and to put you on even footing with him, i.e., you are not willing to work with just anybody!

Again, we do not want to get into a protracted discussion on the phone, but merely to set an appointment. After that you are going to do your due diligence, check out any potential websites that he may be operating, membership in any professional organizations, as well simply employing social services such as Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

If you feel comfortable with the way the call is going you may want to ask an additional question before getting off the phone, such as, “Do you recommend long term care insurance to your clients?” This is particularly appropriate (and safe to do) if Mike and Mary have clued you in that he does bring it up during his regular advisory consultations.

Firm up the appointment time and place and get off the phone. Mission accomplished.

That is how you get past the gatekeeper. If you do not have a client’s name to utilize, you can usually get past the gatekeeper by saying that you “were referred to the advisor or that John has come to our attention as someone we may be able to refer clients to, assuming that John is accepting clients. Is he available to chat a moment to confirm this with me?”

The key is to pick up the phone and to utilize all your centers of influence to grow your network of professionals to whom you can make referrals and even better, receive them back. This takes us back to Ron Willingham’s Law of Psychological Reciprocity. By initiating the process with a referral to an advisor, you place him in the position of “owing you one” and thus the relationship is born.

If the question comes up, feel free to reassure him that you are not merely looking for access to his book of business, but rather, are offering him a time-tested, completely effective turn-key marketing system by which he can offer to his clients the protection of long term care insurance and more importantly your professional services in this critical decision-making process.

Takeaways

  • It all starts by asking our clients and COIs for referrals to their financial and legal advisors.
  • Getting past the gatekeeper requires the use of a process albeit a simple one.
  • Nothing happens unless you pick up the phone.

Next Month: The First Meeting: Getting to Know You.

Modified excerpts 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.