Disability Insurance Forum
According to these successful marketers, there are endless possibilities for growth and success in the DI business.
Q: What led you to specialize in the DI market?
Kenneth Bloch: I was fortunate to begin my career with a carrier that considered individual DI their premier product. Although that company offered other products and services, the goal of most of the home office and field employees was to be involved with the individual DI product line. We were equipped with the best training available, a superior product and a first class delivery system. Our specialized knowledge of this critically important consumer-oriented product allowed us to be an invaluable resource in the brokerage community.
There have been many changes over the years as there are different carriers now specializing in individual DI with new and creative products and solutions. There has never been a better time to be an individual DI specialist or to work with a brokerage agency that specializes in that market.
Barbara Gelber: Working as an administrator for Berkshire Life led me onto the path of sales in the disability income market. Early on, as I began to run illustrations for clients, I quickly became fascinated with DI products and their associated riders.
Through my daily conversations with brokers and clients, I began to really understand the need to protect one’s income and the serious financial ramifications resulting when someone sustains a serious injury and cannot return to work. It was this knowledge that led me not only to purchase my own policy to protect my family, but also to make selling in the individual disability world my career.
Q: How do you prospect for clients?
Gelber: In the brokerage arena, I am often referred to as the “DI Queen,” primarily because there really aren’t many individuals who have chosen to focus on selling this particular product. By consistently making myself visible in the marketplace and having a relentless passion for DI, I have been able to establish new broker relationships and increase my clientele. For example, I am on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), as well as a certified continuing education (CE) course instructor, both of which have provided me with numerous opportunities to network with new brokers. In addition, asking for referrals helps to establish new business.
Bloch: Prospecting for clients is very easy if you can be creative and think outside the box. Guaranteed issue DI products are available for as few as five lives. The executive market is another opportunity source—all you have to do is explain the income gap that exists should they become disabled with only their company provided DI policies. Another almost unlimited prospecting opportunity is qualified associations (chambers of commerce, etc.)—the fact that individual DI products can be discounted for such groups makes the sale even more likely. Have you ever thought that when you sell a key person life plan or a buy/sell plan you could add matching disability plans, too?
Today there are many new products available with discounts for multiple lives, increased issue and participation limits, as well as substandard products that bring existing policyholders additional coverage. True own-occupation and enhanced policy definitions for all occupations can also provide policy upgrades.
By teaming up with a brokerage operation that specializes in individual DI, you can find all of the assistance you need to develop a personalized plan of action to increase your sales—and, perhaps, even make individual DI your lead product.
Q: What are the most challenging issues for a disability insurance specialist today?
Bloch: The most challenging issue for the individual DI specialist is explaining the entire underwriting process to a casual producer. It differs dramatically from the life underwriting process. Financial underwriting requires income verification for both personal and business, if applicable. Medical underwriting can be a challenge if there are significant medical issues. Occupation classifications can also create issues in regard to rates and potential levels of coverage. An individual DI specialist anticipates these issues prior to taking a formal application, working with a company’s underwriting department to anticipate potential offers for the challenging cases. These inquiries can make a potentially problematic situation become manageable and productive for the producer and the client.
Gelber: Over the years, I found that one of the most challenging aspects in the DI market is increasing awareness of the product in the brokerage community. There is a notion that DI underwriting is extremely difficult. Furthermore, because many insurance carriers are no longer offering DI, most brokers do not know how to sell it.
From the client’s perspective, the main objection I often hear is that they do not need DI insurance because they are healthy. My immediate response has always been: “No one has a crystal ball. No one knows in advance that he will suffer a heart attack, cancer, stroke, a car accident, skiing accident—any type of catastrophic incident—which ultimately prevents him from working.”
In addition, many of my prospective clients inform me about the DI policies they have through their employer; therefore, they have no need to purchase an individual policy. At this point I explain that any benefits they receive from such a policy are taxable (if the employer is paying the premium), present the potential gap they may have after the taxation, and then show them how supplemental coverage can bring them closer to their net income. I also indicate that if they were to leave their job, they would lose their coverage. Once a person has been properly informed about how individual disability coverage works, the critical need often prompts them to reconsider their original stance on the purchase of this specific type of coverage.
This type of sales discussion is one that has taken time for me to master by speaking to many brokers and their potential clients. Yet, selling DI insurance is often a challenge.
Q: What advice would you have for a producer who is just entering the disability insurance market?
Gelber: My advice for producers who are just entering the world of DI sales is to find a niche market. Target young professionals, especially in the medical field. Doctors certainly understand the need for DI insurance, so it would be a comfortable place to begin. If you insure your client while he is young, he will be your client for many years, giving you the opportunity to sell additional products to him.
A new producer should work with a seasoned broker, as it is beneficial to have a mentor who can help you make the sale. Furthermore, always listen to the needs of the client. Most importantly, never say the term “disability.” Instead, use the term “income replacement.” Frankly, no one thinks he will be disabled in the future. Remember, you must present the possibilities of what could happen before stating you have a product which can pay your client’s income when he is unable to work due to an illness or injury.
Always believe in and be passionate about what you are selling—love your product and how it protects your clients. Ultimately, that has been the key to my success in the DI insurance market. [BG]
Bloch: The best advice I can give any producer is to become an individual DI professional. In order to do that you must completely understand policy definitions, be aware of underwriting variables, and understand how to secure complete information from a client during the application process. Developing a relationship with a premier brokerage operation is the first step. In order to find a DI specialist that will truly be your partner, ask about their training programs, joint field opportunities and DI seminars.
There is tremendous opportunity to become a recognized leader in the individual DI industry. It starts with professional knowledge, a positive attitude and developing cohesive relationships—and the results are unlimited. [KB]
Kenneth A. Bloch, CLU
is president of The Bloch Agency. He began his career as an underwriter and then a group product sales representative and sales manager.
Barbara D. Gelber, CSA
is the disability and long term care sales specialist at Brokerage Concepts, Inc.