Thankfully, there are others who trudge in the same trenches and they’re here to help. And if you’re in need of some useful strategies in dealing with price and other common objections, you’ll do well to digest the following.
Qualify, qualify, qualify
When many advisors approach a sale as a sale, they may have already made a subtle misapprehension that can make the process much more arduous than need be. Particularly when staring down sales of LTCI, “selling” can be the wrong way of thinking.
That’s an insight that Carol Gordon brings to the phone every time she begins to pre-screen a potential client. Gordon, president of C. Gordon & Associates LLC, located in the triangle area of North Carolina, maintains that LTCI isn’t about selling, it’s about serving your clients. And getting your hands around how to serve them starts with an effective path to qualifying who you’re talking to.
“Qualifying is knowing, ‘Should you be talking to this person?’” Gordon says. “And I’ll use myself as an example – that I’m a woman and that this product isn’t about being 95 years old and having one foot in the grave, it’s about risk tolerance and assessing what kind of deductible” you can live with to set up some sort of safety net.
In fact, as Gordon sees it, an agent’s approach to qualifying potential clients is a way of pre-empting objection. “We’re there to serve, not to sell,” she admonishes. “I try to get a sense of who they are and tell them I’m not here to judge them, I’m here to get a sense of who they are, to get on their side, to make a friend that’s worth making.”
From the client’s perspective, Gordon believes that they’re looking first and foremost for guidance. “You can hit someone on the head with facts and it won’t go anywhere,” Gordon notes. It is, instead, a process that is about listening and attempting to discern whether a client has the core traits that will make them a potential subscriber.
“I’m looking to find people with the health, the finances, and the understanding of the need for LTCI,” Gordon says. “It doesn’t mean they need to write it now – I’m talking with them, not at them, [and assessing] their level of interest.” If they seem like potential purchasers, Gordon listens to them, following up by saying, “I hear you, I’m with you…” “And then they disarm,” she concludes. “They know in their heart of hearts they have to do something, they just don’t know how to do it. Once they tell me that, I give them scenarios and follow up by sending them options of what they can do.”
When it is about the money
As much as a client’s decision shouldn’t boil down solely to money, it often does. However, as Ed Jette explains, that usually occurs because an agent isn’t digging in and finding what the objection truly is. Jette, the vice president of Elder Care Insurance Agency in Oxford, Mass., stresses that agents make three common mistakes when talking about price.
First, when most agents give a number for LTCI, they quote an annual premium when in reality, most people budget everything on a monthly basis. While Jette concedes that 90 percent of his clients buy annually, the initial “it’s too expensive” complaint that many advisors hear comes because they fail to frame it as a monthly expense.
Second, Jette says many agents shoot themselves in the foot by not showing what the benefit pool will grow to when a client will actually need it for a claim. “Agents don’t spend the time to work the numbers and show [clients] what they’re getting in 15 to 20 years,” Jette says. Instead of showing a client how a $1,400 annual premium will net them $164,000 of coverage in three years, you need to show them the immense benefit that will add up by the time they are 80. “It’s like showing them the appreciation on their house – and how a little payment now could be worth several hundred thousand dollars down the road when you need it.”
The third mistake agents make is in how they talk about plan design. Even though over 80 percent of claims being paid today are for home care, Jett maintains, most agents only talk about how the claims will cover nursing home care – even though only 4 percent of all claims end up there. “Talking about the fact that LTCI is set up solely for nursing home care simply doesn’t reflect the common reality,” he notes.
When it comes to finances, Jette maintains, an agent should start by converting the cost to monthly, then ask what other avenues of income (Social Security, pension benefits, proceeds from the interest of a home sale) will be there to help fund long term care. “Then LTCI becomes a supplement to other resources,” Jette says. “The only thing it should do is help protect principal, because once you touch principal, you’re going backwards.” Once people see that they can get away with buying a smaller amount, the conversation may well turn in your favor.
And when it’s not…
But what to do when the objection goes beyond price? Marge Elias, a Long Term Care Insurance Specialist with Genworth in Long Island, N.Y., catalogued a few of the more popular objections she’s heard – and how she deals with them.
“The first thing I hear is ‘I’m too young,’” Elias says. Indeed, someone who is in their late thirties or early forties might not see the need for LTCI. And surprisingly, Elias finds that while many people are in good health, not all of them are; some already have weight problems or diabetes or even high blood pressure. “I’m finding many who say they’re too young but, ironically, they’re not going to qualify for a preferred price; they already have a diagnosis and they don’t understand how it’s going to affect their eligibility.”
Elias’s response? “I often get into a discussion about the fact that protecting their insurability today is the best thing that we can do for them,” she notes. “With any health concerns, it’ll only become more difficult – it’s about protecting their insurability at their age and within the health limits they have now.”
Another line she often hears is, “If my spouse can’t get it, then I don’t want it.” This is the person whose spouse already has a condition that makes them uninsurable – MS, for example – and then they apply a sort of misplaced chivalry into denying it for themselves. “It’s a projection of the anger that they’ve already waited too long,” Elias says.
“But, if you can get a person to listen and if you can listen – if you can agree with them and acknowledge their feelings, then try to get them to think a little bit about how they’re still affecting their spouse by taking out the insurance for themselves, you try to get them to see that if they do it, [it will be so] no one is left in a financially devastated position.”
Lastly, and it’s a retort Elias says she hears 90 percent of the time, is when a client says “If anything happens to me, I’ll kill myself.” She hears it, she believes, because the thought of being incapacitated is so unimaginable that our thoughts take us to the worst-case scenario.
“I usually say to them, ‘I know how you feel – I would feel the same way.’” Elias then tries to bring some context to the situation, saying, “Well, if you needed help with just bathing and dressing and your grandchildren were still able to interact with you, would that be the time [to kill yourself]? Is it when you’re walking with a cane? When you have a walker? Are in a wheelchair? And you still have your mental capacity – you still may have a very vibrant life… will it be then? We all have that image of the person lying in the bed with a stroke, but those aren’t the most common situations.”
When you can get the client to think about their situation in those sorts of terms, Elias concludes, it opens their eyes.
No matter what objections you may hear about LTCI, it pays to keep the topic of LTCI on the table. It doesn’t hurt clients to continue to re-visit the topic annually and, as Ed Jette notes, “If they don’t buy this year, they should consider next year. The topic isn’t going away, and when it boils down to objections, most of the objections are ones that agents create themselves.”
For whatever objections people may have, Jette’s experience in the field speaks volumes. “I’ve got over 65 clients on claim right now and I’ve not had one of them call back and say they bought too much coverage,” he concludes, “Not one.”
Does that sound like the kind of client experience you’d object to?