Want LTC Referral Relationships With Agents? Follow The Etiquette

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To become a trusted long term care specialist who receives referrals from primary agents, a specialist needs to follow some very good rules of relationships with referring agents. In the profession, this is termed the “referring etiquette.”

If there is anything I have learned about long term care insurance, it is that although agents always should include discussion of care needs with their clients, many dont recognize that they should stop at the discussion of need and do a hand-off to a trusted LTC specialist.

What does this mean? To make a comparison, if your doctor, upon examining you, discovers you have a problem that is out of his or her field, the ethics of patient management indicate that the doctor would refer the patient to a specialist. The specialist, in turn, would practice good referral etiquette.

Lets examine what good referral etiquette looks like. First and foremost, the specialist would keep the referring doctor informed of the progress of the patient management. While doing this, the specialist would take the opportunity to thank the referring doctor for the referral.

The specialist also should make a point to support the primary doctor-patient relationshipthat is, make the patient feel good about that relationship. People like to be reassured that their decisions have been good ones.

The most important factor in this good referral etiquette among doctors, however, is that the specialist sends the patient back to the primary doctor once the referring problem has been managed.

Even if the specialist could manage another small problem that the patient hassay, a problem of a different naturethe specialist should not provide this service without first obtaining the advice and consent of the referring physician.

Without following these simple rules, the specialist will have no patient basebecause the primary care doctors will generally not make referrals to such a specialist.

How does this translate into recognition of the referring relationship between the long term care insurance specialist and the referring agent? The question comes up, because financial services agents are often uncertain about the results of referring to a specialist in the same financial field.

Whats needed are some guidelines for forming a trusting referral relationship. Here are some suggestions:

Going back to the example, the referring agent wants to know that the client will come back to him or her, once the specialists work is done. But the agent knows that LTC specialists are also often general insurance agents who could manage the individuals other financial needs as well.

If you are the specialist, follow the example of the physician specialists. Dont be tempted to take on the clients other work, because chances are, that will be your last referral from that agent, and word will spread fast that you are not a trusted advisor.

Next, it never hurts to reassure the referred clients that they have a good relationship with the referring agent.

Also, since the work of the LTC specialist often takes more time than do other insurance sales, it is important for the specialist to keep the referring agent apprised of the progress.

Those peer-to-peer contacts can be very productive, too. In many instances, the referring agent will have some very good ideas for the specialist, since the agent knows more details about the clients situation and can offer practical advice to move the sales process along. Conversely, the LTC specialist may have identified opportunities for sales that the referring agent had perhaps not considered for inclusion in the clients plan.

The LTC specialist should not forget to thank the referring agent at every juncture. That includes sending a final thank you note, which also can include suggestions concerning other client needs, if pertinent.

Finally, remember that the relationship between the referring agent and the LTC insurance specialist can deteriorate in the early stages if the issue of commission-sharing is not addressed right up front. Be sure there is agreement. Take care of that first so that all the attention then goes to addressing the needs of the client.

, CSA, is a long term care specialist with Guardian Life Insurance Company and Owner Seniors Financial, Buffalo, N.Y. Her e-mail is Moldenhauer@choiceonemail.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, January 20, 2005. Copyright 2005 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.