Low and behold, I opened an email from friend and colleague Phyllis Shelton this week announcing, “Drum roll … I’m thrilled to report that for the first time in three years, both individual and group long-term care insurance sales are UP — with double digit growth — according to 2010 LTCI industry sales figures!”

I predicted an uptick in LTCI sales in my column earlier this year, and explained why. Meanwhile,

I’ve had more call-ins and referrals lately and more people finding me on the Internet than I can recall in my 20+ years in practice. Life is great in my LTCI world.

Many of us long-time LTCI specialists have been waiting for this day for years. Finally, the massive tide of negative public sentiment toward LTCI appears to be reversing. LTCI has suffered from years of adverse and often inaccurate reporting. In fact, many of us remember having frequently needed to write correction letters to reporters. The worst thing about mainstream media’s pounding of LTCI was not necessarily its lack of accuracy; it was the negative perspective and spin of its articles. It was common for articles to use opening lines warning readers to be wary of LTCI. Reporters enjoyed telling readers how expensive LTCI premiums were, with no mention of how much money LTCI pays out at claim time, or how great the evidence is that most of us will need expensive LTC. Evidently, negativity attracts readers. And dissing LTCI no doubt saved reporters the time they’d need to properly research, as well.

The new LTCI climate

But the tides are changing – finally! I am seeing more and more articles with useful information about how to buy LTCI, instead of warning readers to be leery of it. I’m seeing stories about families with loved ones collecting from LTCI. More and more stories treat LTCI with respect, like the mainstream, mature product it finally is.

The public appears to finally be taking heed of the impact budget shortfalls and aging demographics will make on the demand for LTC, and most of us have been directly involved with someone needing LTC by now. Additionally, we have new LTC “combo” products that assuage concerns about possible rate hikes and help overcome any “what if I don’t need it?” objections.

The most prudent solution

Now that sales are up, it’s a good time to break into LTC sales and move up the learning curve. As you do so, you will acquire a passion for LTCI and the belief that LTCI is the most sane, prudent solution for most Americans. Follow the steps below to start.

  1. Please buy LTCI on yourself. Commissions are high; you will barely feel the cost of your premiums. You will always be your most forgiving client. Doing so will help you “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk.”
  2. Take the time to learn your products. As I emphasized in last month’s column, do not rely on the “sizzle” of features like Partnership status and risk glossing over more relevant policy features. Partnership status is good, but it’s a minor feature and not the primary motivation to own LTCI. Discover and describe the more useful features of a policy, and you will sell the policy and have a more satisfied client.
  3. It’s true: LTCI rates have gone up considerably since I bought my first policy almost 20 years ago. This is another reason why learning your products is so important. Today’s policies often have innovative ways to surmount this obstacle. There should almost never be a valid reason for a client to say, “I can’t afford LTCI.”

One way to overcome today’s more costly LTCI premiums is to use the larger selection of inflation protection riders available on many newer policies. Some give policyholders the ability to start without any inflation protection. Policyholders may add inflation protection when they can better afford it, when the kids are out of college, perhaps, with no proof of insurability necessary.

Another way to find low premiums nearly everyone can afford is to use the “Flex-Pay” options some policies offer. This is a way to start with low premiums that gradually “staircase” up as your client is better able to bear premiums.

If you know your products, when a prospect tells you “I can’t afford LTCI,” recognize this statement for what it is: another big, fat excuse to avoid talking about LTC planning, and nothing more.

All the stars are aligned for LTCI sales to shine for many years. I am not saying LTCI is easy to sell, but here’s why you want to learn how: it is persistent as all get-out, it pays well, it is relatively service-proof compared to most other insurance products and your clients get to collect on it while they are still alive. Many clients, or their loved ones, are able to express their extreme gratitude to you for selling LTCI to them. When they do, you walk tall.

Honey Leveen has been an LTCI specialist for 19 years and blogs regularly on industry trends at www.honeyleveen.com. She can be reached at honey@honeyleveen.com.

For more exclusive LTCI coverage, visit ASJ’s LTCI Resource Center.

Past LTCI stories from ASJ:

The Anatomy of the LTCI Sale

Prediction: LTCI Sales Will Climb in 2011

12 Questions for 1 Successful LTCI Agent: Brigitte Bromberg

12 Questions for 1 Successful LTCI Agent: Scott Olson

The CLASS Act and LTCI: How to Prepare