I feel that my 20-plus years of experience specializing in LTCI entitle me to a certain swagger. I have more than 300 policyholders who have collected or are collecting from their policies, so I see the magic of LTCI ownership on an almost daily basis. On the other side of the coin, several times a week I also hear horror stories of families suffering emotional and financial catastrophe because they don't own LTCI. Both of these experiences feed my passion for the product.
Unfortunately, my hard-earned swagger is accompanied by increased frustration that also grows on a nearly daily basis. Regular readers will recall my frustration with consumer denial on the front lines. After all these years, I've heard nearly every excuse, so I feel like I have cause to be frustrated with denial.
My dilemma is how to reach out to people in order to counteract their excuses about why they aren't interested even in learning about LTCI.
Recently, an advisor I've known for more than 20 years told me that he doesn't own LTCI. I was shocked, especially when he gave me the same line the layperson uses. I found this almost incredible, considering how successful his insurance career has been. He told me that he had decided to wait. He's in his late 50s, and has already had one serious health event. Fortunately, he's now insurable. So what's he waiting for - another health event to again render him uninsurable? I offered to show him exactly what he should write on himself, and told him that I didn't want any of his commission. This conversation started with him asking me about LTCI for his sister, but yet he refused to consider it for himself.
I will never cease to be amazed.
A bold but necessary move
At this stage in my career, when the people in denial are people I have frequent contact with and care about and whose friendship I enjoy, I feel it necessary to gently disturb them. Although I don't always act on these impulses, I never would have been so bold five years ago.
Sometimes, I'm successful. For example, as a result of my gentle disturbance, a good friend from Rotary recently bought a policy from me.
I believe there's an art to disturbance. It's a very, very thin line between being regarded as a pushy, self-serving zealot and someone who sincerely cares. I understand that my most sincere intentions may be misconstrued and that I may still be perceived as a pushy, self-serving zealot. The key is to show that you're not simply trying to make a commission, but that you care about them. I am more willing to take this gamble today than in years past, primarily because, as my friends grow older, they are closer to needing help. And if one friend winds up needing care without owning LTCI, I don't ever want to lose sleep years from now, wondering if I could have tried harder to have a conversation about it.
Before you begin disturbing
- You must have an overture from your friend, and it's usually subtle. Watch for it.
- Search for the right context and opportunity to disturb someone. For example, a friend asked me several basic questions about LTCI, and then told me that he wasn't interested in buying it. I had to wait a couple of months for the right opportunity to him and his wife. I've just recently sold LTCI to this couple. Our friendship has deepened as a result.
Collateral and a better friendship
Most people don't know that I was an art major in college. I recently used my artistic ability to produce a cartoon that, along with a printout of the home page of the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information, I presented to the husband of a friend. This friend is eager to own LTCI, but her husband is evidently psychic: He knows he won't need LTC. On the printout, I highlighted and underlined the area that states, "At least 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some long term care services at some point in their lives. And, contrary to what many people believe, Medicare and private health insurance programs do not pay for the majority of long-term care services that most people need - help with personal care such as dressing or using the bathroom independently. Planning is essential for you to be able to get the care you might need."
I also printed out the media page of my own website, showing links to several very useful videos, along with the "Assess Your Needs" page from Texas' Own Your Own Future website. I reviewed this scant literature with my friend over coffee, and we talked about LTCI and non-related issues. I feel much better having done this. The genuine and sincere expression of my concern about the need for responsible long term care planning appears to have had a good effect on this friendship - but no sale has yet been made.
It's our duty to disturb people. The right people are grateful that we do. Just remember to make it easy for them to see you that are disturbing them out of genuine sincerity for their welfare, and you should have success.
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Past LTCI stories from ASJ: