Life Is Like Underwear: Change Is Good!

    A very common thing to do in the face of adversity or even the simplest forms of change is to regress and fall into the lament “remember the old days when…” Well, it has been a year since I began my odyssey from the role of captive general agent to independent BGA. Wow. What a year of change and transition it has been! I feel much like the little worm that has crawled out of the radish into the shiny red apple to discover just how sweet life can be!

    Just yesterday I was on a fact finding appointment with one of my agents, speaking with a dentist, when I realized, and actually shared with both of them, the very fact that a year ago we would be having a much different conversation; the range of products and carriers that we could offer to our clients then was dramatically smaller and limited in scope. So, while some changes are easier than others to embrace, I for one celebrate our move to independence and recognize that with it came the ability to better serve our clients. 

    We now have all the tools we need to be able to help virtually everyone with whom we meet! 

    However, no matter how much things change, there are certain things that always remain the same. A few of these truths include:

    • This business is 90 percent beliefs and the other half activity. 

    Your belief system needs to be intact before you even think about encouraging paradigm shifts in clients.

    • You have to see the people in order to help the people. 

    • Leads are merely the tip of the spear. 

    • It is all about need… as well as urgency and value when it comes to a long term care sale.  Without a solid first key agreement and the establishment of need, do not proceed. 

    • It is all about listening to the client. Selling has never been achieved by telling.

    • It is all about the client. A client-centric mindset will always work out best for them, for you, and for the companies you represent.

    • It’s all about putting the client’s best foot forward by doing solid field underwriting, writing letters to the underwriter, and portraying them as the three-dimensional people you met with rather than the one-dimensional paper file of application and medical records. 

    • Avoid submitting “garbage apps” or “dual apps”–neither one serves anyone a good purpose. Clients don’t obtain the protection they want. You don’t make any money–remember, you only get paid on what places and achieve nothing but a reputation for submitting garbage. And the carriers lose because of the ancillary costs associated with poor placement rates. 

    • This industry remains the best “get rich slow scheme” around.

    So let’s talk about the “good old days.”
    Some would say they were “good” because company-generated direct mail leads were plentiful and it was almost like dropping a line in the waters of a fish farm where it was nearly impossible not to catch something.  Others would say these were good old days because the presence of these leads required no marketing on the part of the agent. “Smile and dial” pretty much described an agent’s day if he was not on a selling appointment. 

    For those who remember those days with fondness, I would point out that my recollection of those days as an agent, district manager, regional sales manager, and even as a divisional vice president, included plenty of moaning and groaning and teeth gnashing about the quality and quantity of the leads. On more than one occasion I heard comments such as “these leads stink” or “I don’t have enough leads—I am unemployed.” I never heard comments like those from agents who were being intentional on generating their own leads thru marketing, networking, and prospecting, and incidentally earning twice as much money when AGB was worth twice the commission earned from either a broad market or endorsement lead.

    These same leads often required hours and hours of dashboard time, and often left an agent feeling like the world was conspiring against him when he was “porched” on occasion, making the drive back even longer! I can honestly say that I was never porched by a referral or networking client, because of the significance they attached to these appointments.

    Bottom line: the “good old days” are gone, and I for one am not sad to see them go. With greater awareness in the marketplace because of personal experiences with long term care from aging parents, a greater array of products to carry as arrows in my quiver, and the market continuing to expand quicker than we can serve it, I for one believe that for those that embrace the new culture of selling long term care products that better days, if not our very best days, lie ahead.  

    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.