“The product doesn’t sell the product,” says Dane Petchul, the owner of Long Term Care Insurance Pros in Irvine, Calif. “You can go through all of the options and the numbers all day and still not sell the product.”

That proclamation sounds ominous for financial professionals who specialize in LTCI. But Petchul doesn’t mean it that way. He simply knows, as do LTCI specialists across the country, that the LTCI sale is not like the sale of other insurance and financial products. Long term care insurance, even though it is gaining traction and being talked about more, is still a long sell. It is still an emotional sale. It is still a sale that depends on building a case for the product without necessarily highlighting the product.

The experts know consumers won’t buy LTCI until they see the need and respond to it emotionally. It’s up to advisors to build that need in the client’s mind and tie it to their emotions — whether that’s protecting their family or themselves from being caught in a caregiving situation.

Talking it out
“If a person knows they need it, they’ll find a way to afford it,” says Mark Wardell, a partner with Long Term Care Financial Partners, based in Memphis, Tenn.

Wardell and other specialists say that while price invariably comes up in the LTCI conversation, cost is almost never the bottom-line reason for purchasing or not purchasing coverage. Perhaps the best way to begin building the case for LTCI is to have people talk about their own experiences with long term care situations, whether it was with a grandparent or a parent or a friend’s family. And often advisors have to dig a little deeper with more probing questions. Janis Adams, an LTCI specialist based in Dana Point, Calif., says it comes down to putting life situations in perspective sometimes, because while other people’s stories can be compelling, it really takes a personal example to sway them.

“Sometimes you have to bring it out of them,” she says. “People don’t always see grandma taking care of grandpa as a long term care situation, but it is.”

Mary Steichen, president of Insurance Care Associates, in Oklahoma City, agrees. She says most people won’t even consider LTCI until they have a caregiving situation that hits close to home, and the only way for an advisor to find that out is to “get them to talk about their own story.” There may be something they’ve overlooked until they start thinking about their family situation and incidents from the past.

“Something drove them to see an LTCI specialist,” Steichen says. “Find out what it was that peaked their interest and build on it.”

“People have to talk themselves into LTCI,” Petchul says. “Advisors can’t sell the need with stories about others” — though they may be compelling. “You have to get the person to relate LTCI to themselves.”

Sometimes personal stories aren’t even enough, as people still swear it won’t happen to them. When that case arises, Petchul begins to do what he calls “changing the picture.” He builds “what if” pictures for people to ponder: What would your need for LTCI do to your wife and kids?

“The more severe the consequences to one’s family, the less risk there has to be to make LTCI important,” Petchul says, adding, “You’re never going to sell LTCI to anyone who doesn’t love their family.”

E for emotion
“LTCI is an emotional sale.” That quote could be attributed to any of the experts interviewed for this story. They all agree. Logic doesn’t rule the day when it comes to LTCI. Maybe it’s because the prospect of needing care is so far down the road. Maybe it’s because prospects are healthy and don’t see themselves getting sick as they get older. Maybe they think Medicare and Medicaid will take care of them. No matter. Until the emotional aspect is realized, no sale moves forward.

Adams understands how important emotion is to the LTCI sale, and she feels the same way Steichen does. She figures if someone took the time to set up an appointment to see her, that person has his or her reasons. She asks prospects a simple question, “What makes you want to know more?” And then she lets them start talking. Most of the time they’ve been through a long term care situation. To get at their gut feelings, Adams asks how everyone involved felt. She asks if the person she’s talking to was involved in the caregiving responsibilities. If so, the first hurdle has been cleared.

People who have been through it know how emotionally draining it is on everyone involved. They want to do what they can to spare their loved ones the same trouble. Petchul says advisors really hit an emotional vein if they can put the faces of a client’s wife and kids on his caregivers. That personalizes it for people. If people think about their own care and who will provide it, if they think about their spouse’s health failing as he or she takes care of a sick partner, if they think about a child giving up a career and moving back home to care for an ailing parent, if they think about being sent to an impersonal setting like a nursing home for care — then the LTCI picture comes into stark focus.

Once their own words about their own experiences have yielded the emotional component need to move forward, then it is time to move into the realm of policies and options and riders and premiums. Even then, Wardell tries to keep the picture away from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. He paints LTCI as insurance on clients’ retirement plans, not as insurance against failing health. That’s why he works with financial planners; their referrals are people with retirement plans who understand what could happen if one incident were to wipe out their carefully planned nest egg. They understand the need for LTCI, even if they have to talk themselves into it — with careful prodding from the LTCI specialist.

The product doesn’t sell the product. That’s scary, until one realizes how to build the case for LTCI by allowing consumers to talk about their own situations, at which point they realize the emotional implications for themselves and their entire family. Then the product isn’t a product, it is protection and it makes sense.