It’s a common understanding among agents that individual disability income insurance can be a difficult sell. Clients may think of individual DI insurance as an optional expense or find it unpleasant to think about their own disability; however, successful selling is about providing good financial advice that will ensure the ongoing financial security of your clients. The right strategy and a willing audience make selling easier.

Among those who may have a higher interest in disability insurance are veterinarians. They face the risk of a disability in their career and need income protection in case they are harmed by one of the animals they treat. Just like the growing number of Americans in other fields who live paycheck to paycheck, veterinarians continue to be hugely dependent on steady income. They can only do their jobs if they are physically able. Over a lifetime, veterinarians can earn a considerable income, which means their ability to stay healthy and earn an income throughout their lives is their greatest asset.

Below are some key insights into the veterinarian industry and strategies for closing the deal.

1. Who are they?

Veterinarians are doctors to animals of all kinds. They may do anything from giving puppies their shots to caring for elephants and other exotics in the nation’s zoos. The veterinarian industry has grown over the past decade, with about 105,358 veterinarians in the United States specializing in zoos, clinics, and animal hospitals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Veterinarians earn an average of over $80,000 annual income, according to PayScale.com, and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges found that 2015 veterinary college graduates came out with an average of about $142,000 in debt. Student loan debt is an important factor. It indicates that veterinarians will face severe financial consequences if they become disabled, cannot earn an income and cannot make their loan payments.

Being a veterinarian is fiercely competitive. Should veterinarian clients need to leave work due to illness or injury, they may find re-entry into the workforce challenging. Additionally, the average individual disability claim lasts 31.6 months, according to 2011 data from Gen Re, and there’s a 38 percent chance that a disability claim can last five years or longer. Ask your client: Do you have enough income to cover your expenses for a minimum of three months? For veterinarians earning $80,000, that’s $20,000 in savings they need to have set aside for a rainy day.

As veterinarians care for their patients’ needs — vaccines, nutrition, and medications — to avoid future problems, they must find ways to plan for their own financial future.

2. What do they need to know?

They need to know DI is not as optional as they may think. Many people don’t think disability insurance is a necessity when they think about insurance policies. When they do, they associate DI with accident claims. In reality, only one-fifth of disabilities are caused by accidents. And, as veterinarians work, they are always at risk of suddenly becoming disabled because of an accident that could render them unable to work. It can happen and it does happen.

In addition, a whopping 90% of disability claims, for those in their prime working years, are for illness or disease. The top claims for DI are for illnesses such as cancer, heart attack, diabetes, and depression. Back pain and arthritis are also significant disability causes. Even if veterinarians carefully avoid accidents, they can still be prone to other issues that make working impossible.

None of us plans to become disabled, but the sobering reality is that nearly one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will be disabled by the time they reach retirement, according to the Social Security Administration. That means that, if your client has a partner, there is a 50 percent chance that either the client or the partner will be disabled by the time both reach retirement.

3. Why individual DI?

According to a study by the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA), 65% of working Americans said they could not cover normal living expenses for even a year if their employment income was lost, and 38% said they could not pay their bills for more than three months.

Here are the key facts your clients need to know:

  • An individual disability insurance policy can help replace income that is lost due to illness or injury.

  • There are additional options for protecting the ability to handle crucial expenses, including student loan payments and retirement plan contributions.

  • The earlier clients purchase policies, the lower the cost of their policies will be.

  • Some policies are non-cancellable and guaranteed renewable, meaning that the policy cannot be changed or canceled as long as premiums are paid.

  • Your client will own the policy. No matter where the client works, the disability policy can stay with the client.

If a veterinarian is part of a larger veterinarian association, group coverage may be available, but group coverage isn’t always enough. Group plans often have a benefits cap, lowering the total amount of money your clients would receive. Plus, if an employer pays the premiums, benefits are usually taxed. Salary is typically the only income covered by group long-term disability, as other remuneration (such as bonuses, commissions, and incentives) is usually not covered. The financial loss that can result from a disability requiring your client to leave work can be devastating.

4. How do you get in touch with your client?

To locate new veterinary clients, use centers of influence to find them. Try local clubs, civic groups and associations. In California, for example, these include the California Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Use advanced searches on LinkedIn to look for veterinarians by occupation and location. Another strategy is to use a business database such as Hoovers, Better Business Bureau, ZoomInfo or ReferenceUSA and filter by geography and business type.

And don’t forget to go through your existing book of business.

5. How do you prepare?

Make sure you know your facts, and bring visual aids and marketing pieces to help emphasize your point.  An illustration is helpful too. Veterinarians like to see the numbers. Supplement the numbers with real life examples. Most people can think of someone they know who was injured by animal or had cancer or a heart attack. Tell that kind of story.

6. How do you engage a veterinarian?

Disability income insurance is not a luxury. It is a critical part of any insurance or financial plan. Encourage your clients to use online tools such as Guardian’s income insurance calculator to learn more about cost expectations and protection benefits.        

Start with this key question: “What if you lost your biggest financial asset, your ability to work?” Talk the scenario through with the client. What’s the client’s emergency strategy? The client’s response will set the tone of your discussion and help your client start planning strategically for the future. 

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