The First Meeting: Getting To Know You

In last month’s article, entitled Getting Past The Gatekeeper, we talked about how to get past the dutiful secretary or receptionist (gatekeeper), establish contact with the financial advisor or attorney that you have identified as a potential strategic partner, and how to set an appointment in which to discuss a potential partnership.

So, you were successful and now have an appointment with a professional with whom you may or may not determine that a working relationship will be appropriate. What is the next step?

Prior to your first meeting with any professional partner, it is imperative that you learn as much as possible about the individual that started the firm and whether that person is the same person that now runs the successful enterprise. Reviewing websites, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media platforms is an excellent starting point.

With this information in hand, you are now prepared for the first meeting with your potential new partner. Just as with the home interview, we want to get that person talking to us by asking open ended questions after conducting the necessary warm up and small talk. Topics for warm up can often be gleaned during the social media review.

Because we noted for them while setting the appointment that we are potentially in the position of referring clients to them, it is imperative that we find out exactly what kind of client they desire. We can do this by asking them to describe their ideal client, their average client, and the very client that they avoid. Ask them to share the actual demographics of these various client profiles. Taking notes while they are talking communicates that you are serious about wanting to bring them the desired client and is less for you to remember in the future. It also communicates that they are also auditioning for the role of your partner!

After we talk about the demographics of their typical client, we want to do an even deeper dive with them and their practice to ascertain the degree of success enjoyed by this potential partner. Some questions to help you get started:

  • When was the business started?
  • Why was the business started?
  • How was the capital acquired or was it built on sweat equity?
  • What differentiates this business from the competition?
  • What prompted him/her to own his/her own business?
  • What will their company look like in five years if all goes as planned?
  • If five years from now they look back to gauge their success, what transpired for them to have achieved this success?

You need to get a sense of their value system and what they admire. A few questions that you can use include:

  • How would they capture the essence of the “why” they are doing what they are doing?
  • Assess how passionate they are about their business.
  • You can directly ask them about ethics and integrity by sharing your own feelings about these topics and see how they react. An emphasis on primarily serving the needs of the client is always a friendly conversation starter.

Once you get a feel for how the operation runs and what makes it thrive, you can start positioning how your services can help them retain clients and grow their core business.

  • Would they welcome an additional income stream? College tuition for their children? Additional retirement for themselves? That vacation cottage or fishing boat that they have always dreamed about. It is good to find a motivating factor just as we do with our producers.
  • How important do they think long term care insurance is to their clients’ wellbeing?
  • Are they aware of the risk that they themselves face if they do not recommend long term care insurance as another facet of protection to the financial well-being of their client and their family.

Learn as much about them as possible on the first visit. Determine whether you can envision yourself working closely and for long hours with this individual. If not, do not proceed! Do you initially trust or have a good feeling about this person or firm? Remember, you are not desperate and that there are many other professional partner offices that would love to offer senior services that address long term care and Medicare/Medicaid issues and welcome your assistance in doing so with their clients.

Some questions you need to ask about the clients and households serviced:

  • Do they have the requisite health and wealth for your products?
  • Do their clients have discretionary income not only for the initial purchase, but subsequent premiums?
  • How many families/households does the professional currently serve?
  • How many families/households would they like to serve in the future?
  • How do they envision growing their practice to reach these goals?
  • How can you and the services you can bring to the table help in achieving these goals?

Other questions to ask the prospect on the first visit:

  • Have they ever known anyone who has needed any type of long term care? Particularly in their own family! If so, ask the usual “What was that like for you?” type of questions to get them talking about it.
  • Do they themselves own a long term care policy? Why or why not?
  • Is it important to them that their clients work with a highly skilled and trained long term care specialist?
  • Is it important to them to maintain the appearance of independence and objectivity in working with a long term care advocate? (Note: being a broker representing multiple companies is usually preferred rather than the appearance they are working for a captive one company agent.)
  • Does he have goals like ours for their clients? (Wanting them to have quality care later in life, have a written plan and transfer the financial risk to an insurance company, to maintain their independence and control, avoid government programs like Medicaid, have professional assistance in planning and managing care and to have the peace of mind that comes with a plan.)
  • (We will discuss commission sharing in a later article)
  • Does he understand and want additional residual income coming in when he retires?
  • Does he realize this income, called insurance renewals, will either increase the value of the firm or he can exclude the insurance renewals from the eventual sale of their business and keep it for part of his retirement income?
  • Does the owner perceive any liability if he/she does not offer long term care planning to their clients from the clients or their family circle?
  • Will the owner reinforce and help us manage the process with the firm’s employees? If it is a larger firm, it is critical that the owner/principal agrees to a policy of Endorse and Enforce.
  • How many employees does he have, and does he have a marketing department?
  • Do they perform client reviews now? If so, have him explain the process to you.

Remember you want to integrate your service into his and not disrupt their core business. If there is sufficient reason to believe that this is potentially a strong match, and that a working relationship can be established, set up the second meeting.

Take A-ways:

  • The first meeting is critical and is all about finding out about them and not you.
  • The focus that you convey must remain on building their primary business and not selling LTCI.
  • You are of immense value to them–is your proposed partner of equal worth to you?

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.