Successful long term care insurance agents know that product knowledge is a prerequisite to making sales. But they also know this knowledge is only the start. Agents also need to know how to market, prospect and sell LTC, and how to create qualified prospects continually with direct mail, networking, seminars and other means.

And, when face to face with seniors, they know how to reach the seniors hearts and minds; how to attract interest with facts about the economic loss of a spouse and the need to plan; and how to address LTC needs in the context of the planning and sales process. Some strategies follow.

Locale. Most agents believe theres one best method of prospecting in their locale. But most just go on gut feeling. They have no hard evidence to support their view, and most only have tried one method seriously.

By contrast, successful agents try different prospect techniques until they find what works for them in their area during a particular season. They always are exploring and fine-tuning their techniques. What works in a small town in the Midwest may not work in a big city in the South. The most effective communication in April differs from what gets the best response in October.

Example: Agents in Florida, Arizona or other Sun Belt states that attract lots of “snowbirds” during winter might do best by marketing to these folks in the winter months, using pitches that best appeal to their demographic characteristics. They might best reach snowbirds with seminars, and, in the rest of the year, target full-time residents with direct mail. Advisors in regions that attract summer residents would use an opposite seasonal strategy.

Repeated messages. Winning agents also know that it takes more effort to cut through the clutter. The old rule was that consumers had to hear a message 3 times before it takes. Now its 9 times, often with multiple approaches (such as 3 direct-mail letters, 3 seminar invitations and 3 advertisements).

First sale. It doesnt matter whether the first sale is an annuity, LTC insurance, life insurance or a mutual fund. Whats important is making the first sale. Once that occurs and trust is won, the advisor is in a position to change the customer from a one-time product buyer into a true client who gives referrals.

Multiple products. LTC insurance can be a great first sale, but its not the only way to go. With many customers in their 50s, 60s and 70s, another product is a much easier first sale. An annuity, for instance, doesnt bring up all the emotional baggage associated with LTC. But dont stop with an annuity. Successful LTC agents pivot from one product to another. They want to help clients with their entire financial picturemost crucially LTC insurance. Top advisors have a passion for 2 or 3 products. That enables them to speak to seniors about whatever most concerns them.

Branding. Agents today need a recognizable brand. An exclusive agent can play off the companys brand, but even then, the agent needs his or her own local identity. Independent agents will need to create their own brands entirely (i.e., your brand is “you.”). Having a brand means prospects will pay more attention to an agents communications. Theyll have at least some awareness of who the agent is.

But cookie-cutter branding wont work. Instead of Maxwell House, consumers are looking for designer brands like Starbucks. They want something special. An attractive logo and a decent brochure are part of this. But, ultimately, what is more important than a jazzy image is something unique that the agent brings to the tablereal substance for todays more-educated seniors.

Help from insurers and independent marketing organizations (IMOs). These providers can help advisors increase their success by doing more to generate good leads for agents and making sure their agents know how to talk to prospects to close the sale 90% of the time. Taking proactive action will not only generate more profits and revenues to individual companies, IMOs and agents, but also reverse the industrywide sales slide.

Insurers and IMOs also should explore getting endorsements from employers, associations and unions for voluntary group LTC programs. Endorsed programs give agents unequalled entr?e, and selling policies en masse is more efficient than one at a timethough the sales cycle is longer.

Insurers need to take a close look at marketing strategies and examine brochures and advertisements in light of what agents learn in the field. They must be sure their communications are talking about client interests, not just their own product features.

LTC insurance used to be known as “nursing home” insurance. But seniors dont want to hear about nursing homes so much now. It may be time for insurers to focus on product flexibility and the ability to provide money for care at home as well as in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.

Wilma G. Anderson, president of the Senior Care Associates, Littleton, Colo., is a long term care insurance producer and sales trainer. Her e-mail address is Wilma@TheLTCcoach.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 15, 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.