Q. I know asking questions to encourage prospects to share personal experiences is an important part of the first LTCI sales appointment. Can you provide some questions that will get the client talking?

A. The structure of the conversation during the first meeting should be a 70/30 arrangement. 70 percent of the time the prospect should be talking and 30 percent of the time the agent should be directing the conversation. To provide examples of key questions to use during the meeting, I turned to Deb Newman, president of Newman Long Term Care, a brokerage agency in Minnesota. Here is what she asks: When first meeting with a client, I ask the question, “How did you become interested in investigating long term care insurance?” What happens is that clients begin to tell you their story.

The second question should be, “Have you looked at other long term care plans?” This information will help you better understand the clients and their preferred combination of benefits.

Third, I’m going to say, “Tell me about your family.’” Information I’m looking for includes: How old are your parents? Do you have brothers and sisters? What do your kids do? You will start to get a sense of how important family is to them. You’re also going to get a sense of whether caregiving might be available from a family member. Are their kids helping them or are your clients helping their parents?

Last, ask, “Has anyone in your family ever needed care?” This often becomes the most important part of the interview. Later, you will go back and review with them: “Remember you told me in your family (such and such…)?” That will help them validate the very reason they are addressing the LTC issue for themselves.

There are two other important points that Deb may bring up during a meeting, in addition to the obvious ones like Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

(1) It’s not about long term care insurance anymore. It’s about long term care planning. When we talk to somebody about estate planning, we don’t say, “Well, I’m going to come over and sell you several million dollars of life insurance because that’s the best way to fund some taxes that you’re going to have to pay if you end up needing estate planning. What we do say is, “Let’s talk about legacy planning. Let’s talk about estate planning so that we can plan for the way that you want things to work.” We are always using that word “planning.” Talk with your clients about the inevitable need for long term care planning within their own families and simply discuss their plan.

(2) Recently a president of an insurance company said to me, “Deb, if I were an agent, I would say to the client, ‘I’m here to replace your long term care plan.’ When that person starts to stutter, ‘No, no, no, I don’t have long term care insurance,’ I would say, ‘I understand you don’t have long term care insurance, but you do have a long term care plan. It’s your 401(k), it’s your daughter or that new granddaughter that was just born. Or it’s going to be your 88-year-old wife. You do have a plan, but it may not be the most effective plan.’

This is a very powerful concept. Everybody has a long term care plan, just like everybody has a will. It might not be exactly what you had in mind or what your family members had hoped it would be. This isn’t only about the client. It’s also about what’s going to happen to their family when the client ultimately needs care. In this day and age, we can plan ahead. It is not okay to ignore this and then show up on the doorstep of your family and say, “Oops, you’re now my plan.”