They may be long term care insurance agents on paper, but in terms of actual LTC policies sold, many producers just aren’t producing, experts at the Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance conference here agreed.

During a session to discuss the issue, Patrick Bradley, national sales manager of LTCI Partners LLC said too many producers think LTC insurance is hard to sell, in part because it’s considered too expensive by many clients. In addition, many haven’t had enough training about a product that is often confusing.

Financial advisors are focused on growing the client’s assets and don’t always give sufficient thought to protecting those assets in the event the client or the client’s spouse suffers a health crisis requiring long term care, he argued.

“The producer doesn’t want to learn about long term care,” he said. “We have to show them why to offer it. We talk about their fiduciary responsibility for assets under management.”

Bradley also noted that many financial advisors don’t want to have to ask questions about the client’s medical conditions, as required as part of the LTC policy sale. Many, too, are concerned that a client with whom they have had a long-term association might be declined by the carrier, with a potentially adverse impact on the client relationship.

The carrier or distributor can help ease such fears by helping the producer assure the case is likely to survive the carrier’s approval process before taking the application. They can also invite the agent to teleconference in one of their own professionals to guide the producer and the client through the sales process.

“The fact they know they’ll have someone to count on makes them much more confident,” he said.

Eric Williams, regional vice president of Allianz Life, said the industry was doing little to train people to see how easy it is to sell LTC insurance. Rather than simplify the product, the carrier should focus on simplifying the sale, giving the producers the words and ideas they can use to help the customer understand the need, he said. That demands that sales presentations should be limited to an hour or less, he advised. It also means shifting the focus from product training to sales training that gives the producer a full selling strategy.

The managing general agent can reinforce that approach by holding producers accountable for applying the training that carriers give. Williams urged MGAs to follow up training by asking such questions as, “What did you learn? How are you using it?” The MGA can also help the producer apply the training by going over the points that should be covered and questions to ask before each client meeting, he suggested.

For their part, carriers should insist the MGA fill their training classrooms with individuals who are willing to produce, Williams advised. Agents and advisors should be sent to training only if they have an existing block of LTC insurance business and they agree to be held accountable for showing results from the training. In turn, the distributor must be willing to follow up and reinforce that training, he said.

Jason Goetze, assistant director of LTC compliance and marketing for Northwestern Mutual Life, said trainers can measure knowledge before and after training to determine its impact. He pointed out that computer-based training is the easiest way to do that. Control groups also can be used to test the training before it is given to the sales force at large, he added.

Results can also be measured in pure production figures, comparing each producer’s sales before and after the training, he noted. Goetze added that comparing the producer’s average sales volume increases vs. the average for the company as a whole is another way to measure results.

Tom Weilert, president of the Northwestern Mutual Life agency Weilert/Wunderlick, Irving, Tex., said he grew his LTC insurance sales from 1 or 2 policies a month to 50 a year by using it as an add-on sale to existing clients.

“It’s a need, and it’s wanted,” he told the audience. “People are buying it to protect their assets.”

For most clients, the most compelling motivation to buy is to protect their children from having to provide care and to protect the surviving spouse from loss of assets.

He said he found it effective to point out to clients that they could protect those assets for the equivalent of a dozen basis points of their annual income from those assets.

To be successful, it’s also important to bring up the subject of LTC insurance each time the producer talks to a client who doesn’t already own a policy, Weilert said.