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CLTC Head Calls for a Consultative Approach to Selling LTC

Charles K. Hirsch

At the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance Sales Summit in Kansas City, Harley Gordon, the president and CEO of The Corporation for Long-Term Care Certification, Inc., told his audience in no uncertain terms that the traditional approach to the long-term care sale has not and will not work.  According to Gordon, traditional risk-based selling is founded on the flawed presumption that the individual is interested in being educated about the risks of senility, chronic illness, and dependence.

In fact, Gordon insisted, the reality is just the opposite.  Any certifiable facts that the salesperson presents with regard to the risks of senility, chronic illness, and dependence will inevitably directly conflict with the potential client’s belief that he will never need care.   Being faced with a direct conflict of that nature typically will cause the prospect to experience cognitive dissonance, a psychological term that describes the discomfort experienced when a person’s beliefs or values conflict with their behavior.

When a prospect – particularly a male prospect – experiences the cognitive dissonance brought on by the risk-based approach, Gordon said, he will have one of three responses:

  1. He will ignore the subject.  In real life, that means he might say, “Wow!  That was an interesting presentation.” And then do nothing
  2. He will just continue to believe as he originally believed.  In real life, that means that even after seeing the risks, he will say to himself things like this:  “I won’t live a long life.”  “I don’t think I will ever need this.” “I am not going to a nursing home.” “The product is too expensive.”
  3. Finally, he may in fact change his attitude toward the subject.

Although there’s the possibility the prospect will change his attitude and buy, Gordon believes – and current sales results would bear him out – that this risk-based approach doesn’t work often enough.  That begs the question, what does work?

Gordon said that it is time for more long-term care producers to use a consultative engagement approach.   He describes it this way:  “Consultative engagement is based on educating a client about how a need for care has the potential to compromise the individual’s ability to keep his or her essential directives.  The need for care would result in serious and perhaps irreversible consequences to those whom he loves.”

Gordon pointed out that what the producer is doing with the consultative engagement is actually matching interests – the producer’s and the prospect’s.  Most men are very interested in keeping the commitments that they have made to their family members, and they will react well to a discussion of planning to avoid situations that would result in a consequence that would keep them from carrying out those commitments.

Interestingly, Gordon stated more than a few times that, when dealing with a male prospect, the producer needed to be extremely careful not to make the prospect feel like the long-term care event was ever going to happen.  Gordon said, “He has to think that it is not going to happen or else he will immediately shut down.”

So, in practical terms, what did Gordon advise on what to say to begin the discussion using the consultative engagement?  Here are a few:

·         “Who and what are important to you?”

·         “What responsibilities do you now have that you didn’t have 10 or 15 years ago?”

·         “Do you see taking most, if not all, of your current financial commitments in one form or another into the future?”

All of those questions lead to discussions about the consequences of a long-term care event to the prospect’s financial plans and commitments to loved ones.  Risk is not even part of the discussion.  And because the producer and the prospect are aligned in their thinking, cognitive dissonance is avoided.

For Gordon, long-term sales could improve substantially if more producers would take the consultative engagement approach.  He urged his listeners to avoid cognitive dissonance at all costs.  And that starts with replacing “risks” with “consequences.”

(For more on Harley Gordon’s presentation and others at the AALTCI 2014 Sales Summit, visithttp://www.insuranceexpos.com/.)



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