Nine Mistakes To Avoid When Marketing To Seniors

By Wilma G. Anderson

Like constructing a building, you make a sale by building it brick by brick. But one missing or cracked brick can bring the whole building down in a crash, and you might not have the time to rebuild it.

Make sure your sales are solid by avoiding common mistakes in construction. While these errors apply especially to selling long term care insurance, annuities and other products to older clients, many are common mistakes with all age groups.

Mistake #1. You assume you know what the prospect wants, and you end up rushing the sale. Its an easy mistake to make. Your prospect has replied to your LTC or annuity mailer, so you figure he or she is interested in long term care insurance or annuities. You immediately start comparing products and providing quotes–before you delve into what your prospects are really concerned about.

Before selling, find out what they perceive as their greatest needs. This is laying the foundation of the sale.

Mistake #2. You fail to show youre interested in solving their problem, not making it a collaborative sale. Before launching into your sales presentation, you must find out where the client is coming from. Besides warming up the prospect with friendly small talk, this involves asking questions and listening carefully. You dont want the client to feel youre hawking a product and are only interested in a commission. The client should feel youre truly interested in solving his or her problem with the best possible solution.

Dont tell the prospect: “I know you need this LTC policy (or whatever your selling) because.” Thats not collaboration, thats trying to impose your point of view on someone else.

Instead, get into the position where you can say: “Youve said its important for you to leave an estate to your children and grandchildren. Heres how an LTC policy can protect your assets and help you achieve your goal.”

Take the time to establish a level of trust. Youll have plenty of time to sell and close.

Mistake #3. Confusing people with industry buzzwords. Since we live and breathe insurance and financial products, its all too easy to use our lingo with prospects and clients, who typically dont have a clue about what were talking about.

Insurance and financial products are complex–if they werent, no one would need an advisor. To simplify the mishmash, use this magical phrase: “What this means to you is.” This technique will force you to translate features into benefits which people can easily understand.

Mistake #4. You fail to uncover your prospects objections until its too late. Its natural to want to skirt possible objections, but its important to discover the prospects objections as soon as possible–that way you can respond to them.

Otherwise, the prospect will have an objection that distracts him or her and prevents your message from getting through. When it comes time to close, youre probably sunk.

Make objections your allies. Assumptive closes bring out possible objections you can answer and overcome up-front.

A key assumptive close when presenting LTC is: “What are your plans when your health changes?” The answers to this can help demolish objections like, “I dont need insurance because my daughter will take care of me.” Once youve dealt with the objection, you can continue laying your bricks.

Mistake #5. Not showing empathy, getting backed into the “yes-but” corner.

This is when you answer an objection by responding, “Yes, but if you” This kind of response makes the prospect think that youre not really listening and that you feel his or her concerns arent valid or worthwhile discussing. A better response is more like: “I understand what youre saying. A lot of my clients have found that” The prospect is no longer on the defensive and youve escaped the yes-but corner.

Remember, when you get into an argument with your prospect, even if you “win,” you lose!

Mistake #6. Not being prepared with key facts and figures about long term care. Some agents dont come fully prepared for the first meeting. They dont have brochures or rates or know the cost of long term care in their area. Without this information, you cant close in one appointment.

Mistake #7. Trying to sell more than one product in your first sales interview.

If your first meeting with a prospect is going well, you might be tempted to try to sell both an LTC policy and an annuity and maybe even a mutual fund. Dont get greedy. Youll most likely confuse the buyer and wont end up selling anything. Stick to one product. After youve sold the first product, at the time of delivery you can then open up the second sale. By being patient, youll get a bigger share of his or her wallet in the end.

Mistake #8. Using LTC scare tactics. Some sales trainers advise using scare tactics, like asking a woman, “How would you like to change your husbands diaper?” This is a huge mistake. It turns off listening and can shock the buyer out of sale. Once youve unleashed that bombshell, its hard to get them to listen to you again.

Sure, scare tactics can sometimes work, but is this the way you want to sell? Do you think new clients will willingly refer you to their friends if you use shock tactics?

Mistake #9. Judging the book by the cover. Its easy to visit a modest home and assume that the prospects dont have much money or go to a lavish home and assume that they do.

I once visited a couple who looked poor. It turned out they had $2.5 million in annuities. If I had assumed they had nothing, I wouldnt have made the sale–and they turned over all their under-performing annuities to me.

Ive also visited a couple in their late 50s who lived in a big house with landscaped grounds in a wealthy neighborhood. Four luxury cars filled their garage and driveway. They were strapped financially–all their cash flow was eaten up by their mortgage and car payments.

Dont start out trying to sell a Cadillac to someone with Chevy resources, or vice versa. Instead, ask some questions that will let you find out what resources your prospects have.

Wilma G. 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 Edition, May 19, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.