The Feds have moved onto our turf–and we agents have to protect it. Yes, the federal government is promoting a new long term care insurance plan to current and retired federal employees, both civilian and military, and their families.

In total, a whopping 13 million Americans are eligible, and theyre being bombarded with direct mail urging them to sign up. Thousands of enrollment meetings will be held in 2002.

You could say this is bad news–a real threat. Agents cant sell the federal plan, which undoubtedly will attract customers we could have written.

But its bad news only if you lie down and figure you “cant fight the government.” Actually, this is the biggest opportunity for selling LTCI.

Millions of Americans will for the first time learn about the costs of long-term care and the need for insurance protection. Since the first job of any insurance salesperson is to educate and create the need, the program is doing a lot of our spadework.

To turn this threat into a great opportunity we must get before our clients and prospects and let them know we offer LTCI–and that they really ought to do some comparison shopping before they go ahead and buy the federal plan blindly. It would be a real shame if your clients buy the federal offering when they could have gotten a better plan from you–but didnt ask because they didnt know that you offer LTCI.

While the federal plan is competitive, it isnt an invincible juggernaut. Agents can usually find a better plan in the private market.

If you havent yet segregated your clients by age, do it now–obviously, you dont want to waste phone calls or letters trying to sell LTCI to clients in their 20s. However, dont make the mistake of thinking that LTCI is only for the elderly. While people aged 60 to 74 are your prime market, baby boomers are increasingly more concerned about long term care–both for themselves and their parents. I recommend contacting all clients who are in their mid-40s or older.

Dont wait another week to ask your clients if theyve looked at long term care protection yet. You might want to send them all a letter followed by a phone call. Invite them to a meeting in your office or offer to meet them at home. Show them how to compare the various plans on the market.

Its okay if your clients already have a plan, are talking to other agents, or are even considering the federal plan. Tell these clients that you would like to sit down for a few minutes and help them make the best choice for the future.

People want to have choices. They always feel better about their decision when theyve had a chance to comparison shop–and will shop if you make it easy to compare policies.

If youre an independent agent or broker, you can easily present several plans from different companies and help your client pick the best one to suit their future needs. For instance, I carry the rate schedules for the five companies I use most often. I prepare a rate comparison right at the table while I am in the home. (If you leave without doing a rate comparison right there, you hurt your chances of making a sale.)

If youre a captive agent who can sell only one companys LTCI products, you have an additional challenge–but not a handicap. Your company will undoubtedly offer a variety of plans. If you illustrate at least three different plans to choose from, your clients probably wont feel they need to shop around.

Whether youre a captive or an independent agent, make sure to ask some key questions about the prospects finances so that the proposed premium fits within their budget. This will help you to avoid the “I cant afford that” comment when youre ready to close the sale. Theres no sense trying to sell a Mercedes when all your client can afford is a subcompact. If you keep probing and listening throughout your call, youll nip any objections in the bud, and it will be easy to close.

Long-term care insurance is the missing piece in most financial plans. Almost everyone already has life, health, auto, and homeowners insurance, but only a small fraction of Americans have LTCI–the last wide-open field for financial professionals. Thanks to the federal plan, millions of Americans are learning about why they cant afford to overlook this crucial protection. By taking the bull by the horns, you can jump-start your LTCI sales. The federal government has given us a rare opportunity.

Wilma Anderson, of Littleton, Colo., is a sales and marketing trainer who teaches agents how to sell to the senior market. She can be reached at wilma@TheLTCcoach.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 5, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.