Using Educational Seminars To Generate Referrals

By Jonathan Neal

According to a good number of the agents I talk to, the two biggest killers of sales in both the long term care and annuity arenas are accountants and attorneys. Having encountered my share of “advisors” that have killed sales, it finally dawned on me that rather than fighting with them, a more positive approach might be to try to convert them into referral sources. After all, there can be no denying that these “advisors” are powerful centers of influence that producers must deal with on a regular basis. Trying to dismiss them makes no more sense than ignoring them, and the last thing you want to do is to put your clients in the middle, forcing them to choose between you and their accountant or attorney.

Any producer planning to work in the senior market must accept the reality that prospects have other advisors. Although these advisors may wield more influence than their knowledge of the product warrants, most often the client will follow their advice over that of the producer.

This leaves us with two positions from which to address the situation. First is to fall into the tried-and-true category of the martyr. Although firmly planted on the high ground of moral indignity, this position does little more than assure failure. The second position requires a producer to use his/her sales skills and communication abilities to enlist these advisors as allies, rather than label them as enemies. Of course, walking into this lions den is a scenario that requires a bit of courage and a dose of humility!

One approach to solving this problem lays in communicating by way of education; in short, we need to educate the advisors on the advantages of addressing the LTC and annuity issues from a “does this make sense financially” point of view. This opens their eyes to a universe of products and concepts of which they most likely are not aware.

One way to combat this state of ignorance is through continuing education seminars.

The hurdle to overcome here is ego, as many “advisors” feel that there isnt anything an agent can offer by way of education that is worth their time and that attending a course conducted by an agent is somehow beneath them. The only way to overcome these preconceived notions is through professionalism and persistence.

If you want to play in this arena, you need to put together an informative professional presentation and promote it to your target market. Persistence is the key. When we first started conducting seminars for accountants and attorneys, we had a hard time getting anyone to show up. Fortunately commitment and perseverance do pay dividends, and today we have no problem filling classroomswe even have advisors calling our office asking when our next seminar is going to be held.

So, how does one go about getting courses approved and ultimately getting these “advisors” to attend? Although Im sure there are many approaches that work, we started by modifying continuing education courses on long term care and annuities that already had been approved by the insurance department, and then submitting those to the state board of accountancy for approval as CE courses for accountants. We use direct mail to advertise, focusing the mailings on accountants who had offices within a 20-mile radius of the site where we conduct our programs.

The idea is to use education to promote yourself as an expert. Success should be measured by the number of referrals you get from the attendees. These referrals will come in two forms: product prospects and other advisors. By demonstrating that you are a knowledgeable professional, advisors will find it easier to refer their clients to you. Of course, this will not completely resolve the problem of other advisors recommending against your proposals, but your efforts should result in developing a number of new referral generators.

Allow me to take a little poetic license here and put a new twist on an old phrase. “Those who can teach should” and by doing so will find themselves in an extremely beneficial and profitable position.

Jonathan J. Neal is president of the Society of Certified Long-Term Care Advisors. He can be reached via e-mail at jneal@cltca.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, July 29, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.