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Preparing young agents to serve retiring baby boomers

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The financial services industry is about to experience a perfect storm: A wave of retiring baby boomers will encounter an increasingly young pool of millennial advisors at the same time that a record number of insurance agents also are reaching retirement age.

A new book, “How to Qualify, Present & Sell Final Expense and Medicare Supplements to Seniors,” aims to fill that training gap by combining the advice of 35 insurance agents to help teach young agents how to sell life insurance and Medicare supplements to seniors. The book provides guidance along the entire insurance sales process, from prospecting for final expense life insurance needs to building an online brand.

Related: US advisor population grows, but ‘succession cliff’ looms

Authors Glen Shelton and Justin Bilyj recently sat down with LifeHealthPro to talk about the book, why they decided to write it, their views on the current challenges facing seniors, and the opportunities young agents have to serve their needs. Shelton is president and owner of Lead Heroes and Bilyj is owner of Buckeye Senior Benefits and director of Digital Marketing at Bantamedia, both in Cleveland, Ohio.

LifeHealthPro: What is your background in the insurance industry?

Author Glen SheltonGlen Shelton (seen at right): I’ve been in retail sales ever since I was 18 years old. I started selling insurance about four years ago, when I decided I wanted to get out of the corporate grind of retail sales and start my own sales-focused business, where I could have a little more control over my schedule and my work environment. I found an opening at an insurance agency nearby to sell mortgage protection life insurance, and that was how I got my start.

After about a year, I started to sell Final Expense life insurance in conjunction with mortgage protection life insurance. It was essentially the same product in two different markets, and as I honed my sales process, I really felt like the insurance industry was a better fit for my skills and personality.

After being an independent agent for a few years, I wanted to supplement my own marketing needs beyond the direct mail leads that I was getting, so I started to look into telemarketing. I noticed a lack of quality and service among other telemarketed lead providers in the industry, so I saw an opportunity to scale my process using telemarketers I trained to my own standards. When I found more agents who were looking for the same thing, I decided to launch Lead Heroes in 2015 to provide agents with quality leads and great service, specializing in telemarketed Final Expense and Medicare Supplement leads. Though we specialize in lead generation, we’re expanding to assist agents with other aspects of marketing, as well, so we’re not just a lead provider, but a strategic marketing partner for independent agents and agencies.

Related: Should you be selling final expense insurance?

author Justin BilyjJustin Bilyj (seen out right): I have been in the insurance industry since 2006, but it seems like I have always been in the industry, ever since helping out my family’s P&C insurance agency when I was younger by doing administrative work. My grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, uncle and brother have all been insurance agents, so it was only natural that I followed in their footsteps as a third-generation independent insurance agent.

In 2006 I joined the surety side of my family’s agency, and was an agent until 2010 when I decided to switch to Medicare, following my uncle’s lucrative experience selling Medicare plans. After passing the health and life exam and moving back to Cleveland from San Diego, I first pursued under 65 health insurance by buying internet leads and cold calling small business owners for their health and life insurance needs.

After Obamacare changed the health insurance market, I decided to refocus on the initial reason I decided to switch to a health and life insurance license: to help seniors with their Medicare and long-term care needs. After helping care for my mother’s mother, seeing my mother succumb to cancer at an early age, and seeing my other grandmother go on Medicaid due to Alzheimer’s, that cemented my direction to help retirees and seniors with their insurance needs. The demographic change was just a confirmation for my personal reasons.

Related: 3 reasons many new insurance agents fail

LHP: Why did you decide to write this book?An important new book combines advice from 35 seasoned insurance agents to help train millennial agents to sell life insurance and Medicare supplements to seniors.

Shelton: As I was helping other agents, inevitably I would get questions like, “What’s the best way to work these telemarketed leads? What are other agents doing?” I would see one agent take our leads and have immense success with them, and then I would see other agents fall on their faces. It was repeated predicament that I kept seeing.

After brainstorming with Justin, we decided to start surveying agents to find out, “What are the successful agents doing differently?” Initially, we just wanted to create a resource that could answer some of these common questions. I figured if I could turn someone from failing on the first order to having success, that would be repeat business for me, and hopefully grow someone else’s business at the same time.

Related: 5 best podcasts for insurance agents

We wanted to separate our book from any other sales training books out there, that say, “I’m the expert, and this is how to do it the right way.” I don’t believe there’s just one right way to do anything, especially when it comes to selling insurance, so our book showcases examples from a diversity of actual agents who shared their advice and verbatim scripts with us. I think that collaboration is what makes this book so unique, and why I think even a seasoned agent could read this book and learn a new tip or pick up a talk track that another agent is having success with.

What works for me might not work for other agents. Everybody’s different and everybody’s selling style is a little different. That’s what’s really neat about this book, is you have input from different agents selling these products a little bit differently, and that’s what makes this book appealing because you can take your own selling process and pull from what other people are doing, see what works and what doesn’t work, and make it unique to yourself.

I also wrote about the reasons that prompted the book on our blog.

With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, record numbers of seniors need help with their life insurance and Medicare Supplement decisions.With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, record numbers of seniors need help with their life insurance and Medicare Supplement decisions. (Photo: iStock)

Why did you decide to write this book? (Continued…)

Bilyj: I met Glen on the insurance forums, and then we got to know each other as I ordered leads from him. After being his customer for a while, I helped him beta-test a new type of lead he wanted to start offering, because of my background hiring and training my own telemarketers to generate leads. We started brainstorming questions that agents might ask about approaching these leads, and Glen explained how often he answered the same questions over and over from agents wondering how to effectively convert telemarketed leads into clients.

I understood the struggle, not just as an insurance broker, but also as a digital marketing specialist for Bantamedia, where I help companies answer their customers’ burning questions. We came up with an idea to write a manual to walk agents through the insurance sales process, addressing their most common questions and concerns along the way.

Related: Why the insurance industry needs digital marketing

That led to the idea of getting other experienced agents involved to share their best practices, because we knew there were a multitude of ways to prospect and sell successfully, and that not one method always worked or worked for everyone. So, after creating some surveys and coming up with a contest for those who collaborated, we collected responses from over 50 agents, which we filtered down to 35.

After seeing the amazingly different ways agents approached leads, the manual blossomed into this book for new and experienced agents. We wanted to answer common questions with very targeted training information about selling these products. Unlike most other training options in the industry, we didn’t want to require agents to give up their contracts or commissions (or maybe even their independence), pay thousands for it, or rummage through hundreds of scattered online forum threads to find answers.

As we were writing the book, we became more concerned about the demographics change coming to this country. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day and the Medicare Trustees report from 2015 warning multiple times that the assets are at dangerously low funding levels, we saw serious changes coming down the pike. We knew seniors needed help navigating their choices in retirement, and we realized that agents needed help finding the training resources they needed to guide these seniors, as older agents retired from the field and left a gap in the market. By dedicating this book to the agents serving those seniors, we wanted to address the enormous implications of this unprecedented tsunami of retirement.

You figure at any given time there are over 100 choices for a Medicare plan, when you add up all the Medicare Advantage, Part D Plans, and all the different Medicare Supplement options for a given zip code. The vast complexity of those options can mean thousands of dollars in overpayment, either because seniors don’t know about similar plans with lower premiums, or because they choose plans with co-pays that cost them more throughout the year.

Related: 10 Medicare facts for agents who know everything

Our thought was: If the baby boomer generation is the wealthiest, and they are retiring en masse, let’s help them keep some of that wealth to give to their inheritors instead of lining the pockets of these insurance companies.

LHP: What other industry-wide problems were you trying to address or solve with this book?

Shelton: Beyond the questions that I was receiving from agents, I knew that in the industry as a whole, and from my own personal experience as an agent, training is hard to come by. I had very little training before entering this industry. Essentially I shadowed an agent briefly for two or three days. That was really the extent of my training, and then it was like, “Alright, go sell insurance.”

So that lack of training leaves a lot of agents with questions about how to sell these products. There’s going to be fewer and fewer agents as more insurance agents retire, so you’ve got a lack of training for new agents, and fewer agents out there to help these seniors, as there are more and more seniors entering retirement every day, and that’s going to continue to balloon for the next 10 to 20 years.

I wanted the book to level the playing field for agents by teaching them how to sell specific insurance products to seniors. I saw this resource as a win/win/win, because it would help my business, help insurance agents, and help seniors get the coverage they need.

LHP: What trends in the insurance industry make this book relevant right now?

Bilyj: I see this book addressing two trends, one national and the other industry related. The national issue is the demographic issue of more than 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day. The industry trend is that while many experienced agents are retiring, we’re seeing a high dropout of new insurance agents within their first year — exacerbated by a disenfranchised millennial youth that don’t like insurance, face-to-face sales, or working for commission only.

Related: A look at the coming ‘great wealth transfer’

This book is aimed at killing two birds with one stone: helping seniors save money by educating new, young agents with processes and strategies that will empower them to take their business to the next level with tips and scripts they learn from the book.

LHP: What is the current situation with baby boomers, especially with respect to insurance? What types of products will they need as they get further into retirement, and where are they underinsured?

Shelton: A lot of times they are reliant on limited information, whether it’s from a local captive agent who’s only peddling a single product from a single company, or maybe they’re just going off of a friend or what they’re getting in the mail. So there’s a lack of information about what’s available, and I noticed that as a broker sitting down with seniors trying to explain different products. I’ve definitely seen a lack of information that they’re receiving, and insurance is constantly changing, so even if they got a really great explanation a few years ago, it’s not going to be exactly the same now. Medicare’s constantly changing, the rules and the laws are changing, so they need to continue to stay up-to-date.

As they get into retirement, Medicare’s going to be the most common product seniors seek, whether they decide on an Advantage plan or a Medicare Supplement plan. The whole idea with Medicare is that it doesn’t cover 100 percent of your medical expenses, so what are you going to do to cover that gap? Are you going to do a Medicare Supplement plan above and beyond that? There could be short-term care, long-term care, other retirement plans, and then there’s also the financial side of retirement and social security.

Related: The wildcard of retirement planning: health care expenses

Bilyj: Baby boomers will have a tough time ahead of them, in my opinion. The financial obstacles that baby boomers will have to overcome include:

        • Not saving enough for retirement
        • Underfunded pensions
        • Exorbitant health care expenses
        • Needing more long-term care
        • Medicare Part A and B assets are running out
        • Social Security is running out as well

Some of the products that are paramount for seniors are a Medicare Supplement Plan G, a long-term care insurance plan with a 3% inflation rider, and some permanent life insurance to take care of their final expenses, as well as any drop-in pension or social security benefits for the other spouse when they pass away.

Related: 5 things late retirement savers can do right now

Not everyone can afford a Medicare Supplement plan, so they roll the dice with a Medicare Advantage plan that can have large out-of-pocket maximums and network requirements. Qualifying for long-term care insurance is increasingly difficult for aging seniors by the time it starts become a priority — let alone funding it in this era of unknown rate increases. Add on top of that a general lack of life insurance for people of all ages, and the situation looks rather dire for seniors.

I think baby boomers are in a pinch mostly because the Federal Reserve’s reckless monetary policy of keeping interest rates artificially low, which is eroding the purchasing power of seniors’ savings and the earning power of their pensions, while retirement plans are severely underfunded or axed altogether due to the economic conditions that these loose-money policies have brought. Plus, social security benefits are tied to an index that doesn’t accurately measure inflation, so boomers are getting hit on all sides of what they’re saving, earning, and spending. So you have the pickle we’re in today, where seniors are trying to figure out where they can cut corners to keep up with rising costs, sometimes deciding which days they will skip taking their overpriced medications so they can make ends meet on a fixed income.

Related: Into the mind of the baby boomer

LHP: Where are retiring seniors often underinsured?

Shelton: On both sides, health and life. On the health side, Medicare Advantage has become hugely popular with the $0 premium and they think, “Oh, it’s free; I have health insurance and I don’t have to pay for it,” so there’s a big underinsured gap there on the health side. If they do have a “free” plan, there’s always the Catch-22 where if you end up using that insurance, you might have to pay a lot out-of-pocket.

One-fourth of the insurance workforce will retire by 2018. In the meantime, 90 percent of new agents burn out before a full year in insurance sales, according to these authors. (Photo: iStock)One-fourth of the insurance workforce will retire by 2018. In the meantime, 90 percent of new agents burn out before a full year in insurance sales, according to these authors. (Photo: iStock)

(Author Glen Shelton continued…)

When it comes to life insurance, across the board whether we’re talking about younger folks or seniors entering retirement, very few people are properly insured for what they need, so that’s a huge gap. LIMRA’s 2016 Insurance Barometer Study showed that three out of five Americans (60 percent) report having some amount of life insurance, but it estimated that 48 percent of households (60 million) have an average life insurance coverage gap of $200,000, which comes out to more than $12 trillion in total market need.

Only 27 percent of baby boomers surveyed last year by the Insured Retirement Institute expressed confidence in their retirement savings, which is a 5-year low; 40 percent didn’t have any retirement savings at all. Plus, baby boomers are dealing with more health issues and a greater need for costly long-term care, compared to the same age group 10 years ago, according to the CDC. These statistics emphasize the huge underinsured opportunity there is in the senior insurance market, especially as baby boomers retire at record volumes.

Related: Annuity ownership tied to confidence in retirement preparedness

LHP: The book focuses on Medicare Supplements and Final Expense products. Why are these products important and how can they protect retirees and their families?

Shelton: The fastest growing insurance market is the senior market for the reasons we just talked about. We have fewer agents servicing them while more and more people — 10,000 people, actually, are turning 65 every single day — and a large majority of those boomers are retiring.

I explained above why Medicare Supplements are important to cover the gaps that aren’t covered by Medicare, so if I was turning 65 today, being as educated as I am on the different parts of Medicare, I would want a supplement myself, because if you’re going onto a fixed income, like social security, a huge out-of-pocket medical expense could be detrimental. If you end up in the hospital and then realize you have to fork over $2-3,000 and you’re only pulling $3-4,000 a month for retirement, you’re going to have to dip into savings, or if you don’t have those savings, you could be financially stranded, and that could be very damaging.

Related: 11 Medicare mistakes to avoid

When it comes to final expenses, you don’t want to burden your family or your children with any possible debts or funeral costs, or force them to “pass the hat around” to cover the expenses you leave behind. Their last moments with you shouldn’t be spent thinking about having to pay out of their own pocket for your funeral because you didn’t have a plan in place for it. That’s the last thing I would think anybody would want for their funeral.

The agency that brought me on focused exclusively on life insurance; they didn’t believe in talking about or offering any health insurance. A neat part about this book is just that it’s all tied together, so you really can’t learn about one product without learning about the other. So a seasoned agent who has been selling life insurance for 20 years, maybe they don’t learn a lot about life insurance reading the book, but they had no idea how health commissions worked or the different products available, and now that’s something that they can help seniors with. So this book is positioned to help educate agents at all levels — whether they’re mildly experienced or brand new to the industry, or even if they’re veteran agents crossing over to a new product line.

Bilyj: We already covered a little bit about why I think Medicare Supplements are more attractive for seniors than Medicare Advantage plans, namely because there are no networks and lower out-of-pocket costs.

Final Expense life insurance is a good solution for seniors because they often lose their coverage for one of the three reasons we talk about in the book: they didn’t set aside cash to pay for their final expenses, they didn’t get a life insurance plan when they were younger and healthier (when premiums would have been lower), or they relied on a policy they had through their employer, and after they retired, they saw higher premiums, lower death benefits, or lost the plan altogether.

The inflated rates for simplified life insurance (AKA no-exam Final Expense insurance) make most Final Expense plans a money-losing proposition for many seniors if they live longer than 13-15 years. But if seniors were educated on more fully underwritten insurance options, they could save even more money or get even more coverage for their premium dollar. Any Final Expense option is still better than nothing, because it protects the next generation from covering a senior’s final expenses when they die uninsured and leave behind a legacy of debt. That isn’t the legacy most boomers want to leave behind.

LHP: What is the value for advisors in focusing on these solutions (Medicare Supplements and Final Expense), besides the additional commissions? Are there other benefits an agent can get by focusing on these products specifically (a way to discover other business opportunities or referrals, for example)?

Shelton: Referrals are huge, especially in the Medicare space. If you can save someone money on their existing insurance, then referrals will flow. And happy clients stay on the books.

By having knowledge on both sides of the coin (Final Expense and Medicare Supplements), you’re better positioned to cross-sell and you won’t lose business to another agent who already does both. So another theme in the industry is to do one thing and only do that one thing, be the best at that and don’t talk about anything else. There’s some credence to that, but on the flipside, if another agent comes along and they’re able to offer multiple solutions to someone, you might lose that client because another agent is more educated on other products and services.

So having both of those life and health products tied into the book is key because if you can be educated on both, then you’re less likely to lose business to someone else who does both. That is the customer service aspect, just being educated on what’s available to help each client.

Then there are those who maybe are not in this space yet, like a financial advisor for example, and it could be really big for them to get educated on this and know what’s available, and possibly start to offer these products and services to keep from losing business to someone else who is, in order to better serve each client.

Bilyj: The two primary benefits of selling Medicare Supplement and Final Expense plans are increased instances of referrals and cross-selling. Medicare is heavily referral-based in my opinion; more people will talk (or gripe) about Medicare (and its costs) than they will about end-of-life planning. Helping those seniors with their final expenses can lead to increased Medicare plan sales. Meanwhile, helping seniors find more affordable Medicare Supplement plans can lead to increased instances of cross-selling life insurance plans by reallocating the money they saved on the Medicare Supplement plan (we call that the Frank Stasny method in the Medicare Supplement industry).

Insurance companies may provide generic product training to agents but don’t always offer practical sales training to teach the skills required in the field. (Photo: iStock)Insurance companies may provide generic product training to agents but don’t always offer practical sales training to teach the skills required in the field. (Photo: iStock)

LHP: What advice would you give to advisors who may not have focused on these product lines in the past, or aren’t sure how to get started selling these products?

Shelton: That’s a great question. The first thing I would do is mention to clients that you’re involved in it. Just explain that, “Hey, by the way, if you have questions about Medicare, I can help you with that.” That way when it comes up down the road, which inevitably it will for seniors, you’ll be in their head. Whether you mention it in an email or a newsletter or when you’re sitting down and having a conversation, you’ll stay top-of-mind when they start coming up on Medicare, just by mentioning that you offer it.

When you’re doing client reviews, that’s another really great time to bring it up. Most P&C agents and financial advisors typically do annual client reviews, and that’s another great opportunity to mention other services and stay at the front of their mind: “Hey, we’re also doing Medicare now. I just wanted to explain that to you. You might not quite be ready yet or maybe you just talked to someone, but that’s something else that we can help you with.”

Especially if you’re new to this, take it slow, plant the seed, and go after the low-hanging fruit or the people who happen to be looking for these products right when you mention them. As you get more comfortable with these products, you could start marketing them to your existing book of clients, whether that’s telemarketing or sending mail, newsletters, whatever the strategy is.

The hardest part of getting a client is getting them to trust you. So if they already have a policy with you, whether that’s a P&C policy or a life or health policy, you already finished the hardest part of gaining their trust; now it’s just explaining other things you do.

Related: 2017 Medicare Advantage hole rankings

Bilyj: This book is a great addition to any agency or IMO’s bookshelves for their agents — not only because of the online branding advice that is specific to insurance agents, but also because of the sheer volume of script examples in the book that their agents can try to use. Plus, regardless of the type of insurance you sell, this book covers the entire sales process, both before and after the sale. Any agent selling any insurance product can use this guide to increase referrals and decrease lapses.

Financial advisors and P&C agents not wanting their clients to go elsewhere every time they have a question about life insurance or Medicare, would be wise to pick up this book and learn the basics while they decide if they (or another agent at their office) should help their clients with these questions or concerns — before clients leave to find another agent who can, who might possibly cross-sell them on the policies they already have with you.

I like to say, “I help financial advisors and P&C agents keep their clients and keep them happy,” by offering them a referral outlet for their client’s Medicare, life insurance and long-term care concerns without stepping on their feet. There’s a huge opportunity for agents to partner up that way, and it offers them another service to differentiate them from their competitors. Likewise for other agents wanting learn how to offer these products themselves, this book will help them keep their clients and keep them happy.

LHP: If an agent is totally new to Medicare, what common fears or questions would they have? Maybe they’re wondering if they’re cut out for life or health at all, or if they should stick to other lines of insurance?

Shelton: Anything can seem daunting when you’re new to it. Before, when I was transitioning from retail sales to selling life insurance, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to figure it out. It takes time. You have to read resources like the book that we released, and then real-life experience goes a long way. Just start having conversations, hearing what clients are worried about or what they’re interested in. If an insurance agent can be successful in one niche, there’s no reason why you can’t learn these  niches as well.

LHP: How can a young agent build the credibility to sell these types of products to someone who might be 50 years older than they are? Do boomers and seniors trust young agents, or are they distrustful because of those stereotypes?

Shelton: Practice is big. It’s going to take time, and you’re probably going to lose some business when you first start out. I know I did, and looking back, hindsight being 20/20, there were deals that I probably could have written, but there was a lack of knowledge. Real experience is really hard to beat, but once you have examples of other seniors you’ve helped solve similar problems with the insurance products you offer, those testimonials will go a long way to build credibility.

In the beginning, read and learn as much as you can, to take in as much knowledge as you can. Even if you’re new and starting out, you can still be confident in the sales process and explain to seniors that, “Hey, I’m licensed by the state to sell this product,” which really makes you look legitimate. If you don’t have the answer to a question right away, that’s ok, just explain that to your client: “That’s a great question. Let me go back to the carrier or whatever resources I need to and figure this out, and I’ll get back to you on that.”

LHP: Do boomers and seniors trust young agents, or are they distrustful because of those stereotypes?

Shelton: Yeah, unfortunately, there is some skepticism with seniors because they’ve been warned about financial fraud and scams. I just watched a documentary the other night about the Jamaica Lottery Fraud, where call centers or individuals in Jamaica call seniors and say, “Hey, you just won a car. I need your bank information and you need to pay $1,000.” It’s a total scam, but unfortunately, the few ruin it for the majority.

Related: Why relationship-based selling still works

In this digital age, it’s a mistake to think that seniors aren’t shopping online like other consumers. (Photo: iStock)In this digital age, it’s a mistake to think that seniors aren’t shopping online like other consumers. (Photo: iStock)

(Author Glen Shelton continued…)

Seniors have every right to be skeptical, and some of them are very skeptical. But building trust is such a huge factor in the sales process and there’s a lot of ways you can do that, even as a young agent. I always leaned really heavily on my state license, and I wore a copy of it almost like a badge to say, “Hey, I’m licensed by the state, you can call the department of insurance, this is my number to validate that it’s active and that I am who I say I am.” That carries a lot of weight with seniors to prove that you are who you say you are. But I really think you can build that trust many ways. Young agents shouldn’t be intimidated by the idea of selling to seniors.  

Bilyj: That is a good question because I often wondered that when I first started selling to seniors. I remember one of my general agents, Todd King, reminded me to just treat them like I would if they were my own grandparents. After that realization, it’s just a matter of having patience to help them go through their options.

A key for working with seniors is demonstrating that you’re comparing all the options for them so they don’t have to go online or wonder if they’re getting the best value. Young agents actually have the advantage of being able to leverage technology to illustrate the options for seniors like never before, by showing them the quoting software on a screen share session or making other visual presentations to compare their choices.

Using old fashioned personal touches, like sending scheduled card campaigns and gifts through a service like SendOutCards, can go a long way to overcome doubt in seniors. They appreciate when agents still take the time to send personal notes, birthday cards and holiday cards, and keep in touch throughout the year — just like agents did in the good old days.

The ways that agents can build trust and rapport differ whether they’re selling face-to-face or over the phone, and we cover both methods in the book. Agents dealing with seniors face-to-face can dress the part, use genuine mannerisms and expressions, and show prospects everything in black and white. Agents selling on the phone might not be able to make eye contact, but they can take the time to explain options in detail and be willing to send information in the mail or through email. When I sell over the phone, I ask clients to join a screen share session so I can show them my state license and quoting software, which adds credibility in black and white, even if we’re not in the same room. I also include pictures of me with my family to break the ice and humanize myself so they don’t just see me as a salesman. Lastly, having client testimonials will go a long way to helping seniors feel at ease. I even have some clients who are happy to speak with new prospects on the phone to refer me, if they can help other seniors save as much money as I helped them save.

LHP: Are there intergenerational nuances or differences in communication styles that young agents should consider when they’re communicating with a baby boomer? 

Shelton: Absolutely. You want to match the style of the person that you’re speaking with, regardless of age. If you’re talking really fast and they’re talking slower, you could lose that connection and ultimately disqualify yourself from making a potential sale.

So matching emotional transference and matching what they’re doing and saying and feeling, that could be something that a lot of younger agents might miss. Talk a little bit slower because some of these seniors might be a little hard of hearing.

But obviously “senior” is an ambiguous term. If someone’s 80 or 90, you’re going to have to take it pretty slow. But someone who’s 65, they could be just as quick as you or I, so it just depends. But being aware of their needs right away is huge. If they feel like you’re aware of their needs, and taking your time to explain things to them, maybe taking extra time if they get confused, being available to them to answer any questions, that goes a long way to communicate and build confidence across generations.

As long as you’re confident and you’re willing to work with them and match what they need, there’s no reason a young agent can’t work with seniors. I’m under 30 and I’ve worked with tons of seniors in my career. It’s just like having a grandparent; there’s a little different way to handle them, but you can have a great relationship with them, even if there is a large age gap.

In fact, I think that’s a great analogy: just think of how you would sit down and explain to your grandparents how insurance works. It might be slightly different than how you explain it to someone younger, but I really don’t see the age difference being a problem. I think that’s a stereotype of a young punk kid coming to the door and the old person yelling at them to get off their porch.

LHP: What tools and technologies should agents be comfortable with using to sell to seniors?

Shelton: Unfortunately, not all insurance companies are quite up-to-date, but there are more and more e-apps coming out, so in the not too distant future, almost everything should be available via computer or online. So agents need to be comfortable using a computer and all the apps and technologies that come along with that. As time goes on, more and more seniors will be internet savvy.

It’s kind of a Catch-22 right now, because some seniors don’t like to use technology. You’ll say, “Hey, can you hop on your computer or can I send you an email?” And they’ll say, “No, I’d rather not use my computer if I don’t have to,” because they’re not comfortable on it. With a lot of seniors today, you can still go in with pen and paper, just like it’s been done for hundreds of years. So agents today have to be flexible enough to deal with old-fashioned seniors as effectively as tech-savvy seniors.

The biggest tool agents need to be comfortable with would just be knowing the product and the carrier and underwriting, which is so important for both life insurance and health insurance. That’s a big thing I’ve noticed: the most successful agent I work with, he’s turned his brain into an underwriting computer. He knows exactly where to put a senior based on their medication and their health conditions. That’s the beautiful part of being a broker, almost like a matchmaker putting seniors with the right company and the right plan based on their health. So whether it’s on a computer or printed on paper, knowing the underwriting is going to be really important.

Being able to quote someone accurately is an important part of that underwriting knowledge. Everyone wants to know what to expect as far as a price-per-month for their policy. There are a lot of different quoting tools available, so agents will have to be comfortable navigating those.

Studies have shown that every day, 70 percent of seniors use the internet, 50 percent check their email, and 42 percent use smartphones. The way insurance agents market and prospect for business must change as tech-savvy consumers—yes, even seniors—adapt to the times. (Photo: iStock)Studies have shown that every day, 70 percent of seniors use the internet, 50 percent check their email, and 42 percent use smartphones. The way insurance agents market and prospect for business must change as tech-savvy consumers — yes, even seniors — adapt to the times. (Photo: iStock)

LHP: How is marketing changing for insurance agents who deal with seniors?

Shelton: That’s at a transitioning point. I imagine you’ll see it more and more seniors going online every year. Today, agents are still using direct mail and telemarketing to reach seniors, but I think we’ll see more and more seniors use the internet, shop for insurance online, and contact insurance agents through the internet.

I cannot stress it enough: it’s critical for insurance agents to get online, to have a website, to look at marketing and sales from a digital perspective outside of just direct mail and telemarketing.

LHP: What tools and technologies should agents be comfortable with using to sell to seniors?

Bilyj: I think the tendency for baby boomers and other seniors to rely on technology is increasing at an exponential pace. My own father uses his smartphone more than I do. They are becoming hooked on the internet, and with that comes the reliance on multiple sources of information to make any potential buying decisions. That’s why we think it’s paramount for agents to not only have an online presence, but to populate their channels with content that will address seniors in every part of the buying cycle.

We’re seeing a trend with more carriers adding e-apps, so it’s important for agents to learn how to navigate these forms online. But at the same time, agents should still understand how to use paper apps in face-to-face sales to qualify the senior and close the sale. Knowing how and when to use both app formats effectively can make the modern agent more nimble to meet seniors where they are.

As we just said, screen share software can be a great tool for connecting with seniors when selling on the phone, and using a webcam can really personalize long-distance sales.

Quoting software is another tool that’s important to help agents demonstrate that they’re getting the best value for the senior’s premium dollar. More and more quote engines are popping up all the time, and not all of them cover every type of insurance, so agents may have to look at several options to identify and select the right one for their needs.

There are many more tools an agent might us every day, but the point is that the buying landscape and behavior of all consumers (yes, even seniors) are changing fast, and agents need to evolve and use all the tools at our disposal — both on the internet and borrowing from traditional methods — to effectively reach and reassure seniors today.

Related: 15 of the best insurance and finance websites for the New Year

LHP: Who is the book written for?

Shelton: A fairly wide audience:

        • Licensed agents who might not be involved in the senior life and health space yet, like P&C agents and financial advisors.
        • Agents already in this space, looking to elevate their sales process. Whether they’re new to this industry or even if they’re seasoned, there’s definitely something they could glean from the book.
        • Agents who might only be involved in one of these products we cover in the book, so maybe they’re just life and they’ve never really looked into health, or they’re just health and they never looked into the life side.

Even people who have never been involved in insurance before and they’re looking at getting involved. This would be a great introduction to learn more about this space.

Related: 3 reasons many new insurance agents fail

Bilyj: This book is written for three types of people. First and foremost, this book is written for new agents, to educate and guide them toward success in this new career choice.

The second type of person this book is written for is the experienced agent. Maybe the agent is lacking in the customer service, referral generating, or cross-selling departments, and this is a good opportunity to learn what works for other agents. Maybe they’re selling P&C and want to enter the senior insurance market. Even the most experienced sales-producing agents can learn a lot from the online branding section at the end of the book to help them update their prospecting tactics for the digital age.

The third type of person this book is written for is the agency owner or IMO/FMO recruiter. It costs multiples more than the Kindle version of this book to have an employee call up an agent (prospective, contracted, or producing) to have a conversation with them — let alone to offer them any additional training. This book is the owner/recruiter’s chance to give their agents who cater to seniors a base-level foundation of learning that will guide them toward becoming producing agents. Besides buying this book for their agents, there’s no other strategy with such an affordable price tag that will have this much impact on how effectively their agents sell.

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