As someone who has focused exclusively in the final expense market almost 15 years, I have seen hundreds of agents who have tried to get into this simple and rewarding market either full-time or to at least add this guaranteed "Burial Insurance" product to their existing offerings.
Most have failed, while few succeed. Let's scout out the reasons the few "make the cut."
1. See the people
This specialty market is simple and seniors have requested your information; however, you must pass through the hardest door of the day -- your own, and before 8:30 a.m. If your prospect cards are within an hour's drive, whether you are at home or selling final expense plans while traveling around the country, DO NOT CALL! Just use the selling system of "Drive-By Selling." Use the old-fashioned technique, "I was just in the neighborhood helping others like yourself," then show them the stack of lead cards in your hand. Follow up by saying, "I have the information you requested and a quick free quote. May I come in?"
Top-producing final expense agents will tell you that if you have 20 to 25 new lead cards each week, and make only 10 attempted drive-by stops a day, five days a week, you will get into 12+ homes, sell 50% of them and produce four to eight submitted applications weekly. And most importantly, you will have helped those families in their darkest hour.
This unique selling system is easy, but does require a work habit of 10 stops a day. Even if they are not home, that's OK. A fun mental game is to think each attempted stop is worth $50. At times, you may have two days of finding no one at home, making 20 stops and getting discouraged. But the next day, you may get into three homes, sell three couples, producing six apps!
In sports, coaches are noted for saying, "play the percentages." Did you know the average UPS driver is required to make 100-150 stops every day? What's 10 stops? Buck up, player!
2. One simple selling process
Many have come and gone in the final expense market because they find it not as challenging as say, estate planning, qualified tax plans and Medicare Advantage programs. True, all the advanced training in the insurance industry with excellent learning programs and designations such as CLU, ChFC, CFP, etc., will not really help in the final expense market; in fact, they probably will hinder.
In serving this middle- to lower-income level market, you can avoid creating confusion for non insurance-savvy seniors by providing one disturbing problem: The high cost of dying. [Tip: pick up General Price Lists (GPLs) every six months from area funeral homes and cemeteries and carry them in your presentation book]. Then provide the financial solution of an affordable "Burial Insurance" plan, ask if you can be their "burial man/woman," write it up, and gracefully leave to serve another family.
This is a target market where you "sell to the masses, not to the classes." High-producing final expense agents regularly "leave money on the table," referring to colleagues who work with those families who have needs with Medicare planning, long-term care, annuities, etc. But that's OK, because you will soon come to be respected as the "final expense expert" in your local area.
3. 100% lifetime guaranteed product
While seniors in middle or lower income classes remain wary of insurance products, many are attracted to plans with guarantees, fixed premiums, fixed death benefits and non-forfeiture features. "Burial Insurance" provides these consumers with the peace of mind they so desire, and perhaps the memory of the same product their own parents may have purchased years ago.
It is advisable for the final expense agent to be appointed with three or more final expense carriers. The agent needs to know the underwriting rules for the carriers so they can get the policy issued immediately.
Many agents new to final expense are surprised to find that seniors in this niche market are not as concerned about the total death benefit as they are about keeping premiums within their budget. I recommend a maximum of $40 to $50 monthly per person, and having the protection approved. Many in this demographic share the attitude that "some burial insurance is better than none."
Agents who give up selling final expense typically do so because, for them, this product doesn't have the sizzle of, say, universal life, variable universal life and term insurance with a return-of-premium rider. But those in final expense selling believe the 1950s MDRT member who once said, "What's the best life insurance to have when you die? The one that is in force."
4. Commit to a direct response card program
As a big-league ballplayer commits to practice on an ongoing basis, the consistent final expense producer commits to an ongoing direct mail system. Have you noticed how often organizations such as AARP, cruise lines, casinos, credit card and pharmaceutical companies send direct mail?
These companies acknowledge that while the return is well below 2%, they get results and continue their mailings. Don't try to do these mailings yourself -- you get paid by sitting at the kitchen table. Instead, set up a system with a turnkey direct mail house. For example, you might want to mail 5,000 cards a month, 10 months a year (not in November or December). Target people ages 55-75 with incomes of $15,000 to $50,000 maximum. Soon you will have people requesting your help, and the beauty of direct mail cards is the shelf life. Unless the senior has bought, moved or died, you can continue through the years to follow up!
There are only two business expenses you should have as the final expert in your area: A small, economical used car (with that you only need liability insurance); and your direct mail response campaign.
Direct mail is not a cost, but an investment. For every 20 cards you receive back, you should write $2,000 to $5,000 in premium. (Other ways to market final expense)
5. Do only one thing, full time
Have you noticed that when you attend industry meetings, training workshops or trade show conventions, the keynote speakers will have earned their success in ONE specialty? Of all the articles I've written on final expense selling, talks at industry meetings I've given, and calls at home I've taken, I have yet to see one agent who has just added final expense to their existing line and been profitable in doing so. In fact it damages their practice -- it takes away the focus on their core products.
The days of "being all things to all people" are no longer valued. Why is it that we want a specialist when it comes to our own health care, but not in the financial sector? The successful professional in any field, in all industries, is that "expert" in one niche. Whatever your career path, successful producers today will suggest that you pick one target market, one concept, one geographical area, and one selling system. If it's not for you after a period of time, fine, you tried -- but then seek another venue, again using the oneness factor. As an old adage goes, "He who chases two rabbits catches neither."
6. Compassion for this target market
Many agents who dip their toes into the final expense market flee after only a few months. It appears they conclude this market is "beneath them." Yes, those of us in final expense marketing realize this market is not for most agents -- one is, after all, working in the middle- to lower- income market.
Most of the seniors we target don't even have $50,000 in lifetime savings; otherwise they wouldn't be open to your recommendation of a $10,000 "Burial Insurance" program. Many have spent their lives working for below-average wages. Yes, a final expense agent may be giving guidance at times to seniors who live in shabby trailer parks, old homes with a lonely widow and her 19 cats, or a forgotten widower who became a pack rat after his caring wife passed away.
Whether an agent is in a rundown urban neighborhood, a depressed rural area or a tract home suburb built in the 1950s, the final expense agent looks at the bigger picture and knows those seniors who buy "Burial Insurance" love someone.
For these seniors, this is their last policy; this is their estate plan.
Alan Benedict considers himself "just an old-fashioned agent and funeral director." He has sold life insurance for more than 20 years, and began specializing in final expense plans exclusively nearly 15 years ago. Mr. Benedict also holds a California funeral director license and has managed a funeral home in years past.
For more articles about final expense by Alan Benedict, click here.