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One of Them

Working within his own age group, one advisor grows his practice.

By Lucretia DiSanto Jones

John Dean, of Affiliated Services in Willmar, Minn., had an interesting encounter that prompted him to turn to seniors as his target market.

“I put a plan together for my son, and he decided to go with someone else for planning. I woke up and said, ‘Wow, I’m in an older market. I’d better do something about it,’” he says.

Dean, a NAIFA member since 1974 and currently a member of the Little Crow AIFA (Minnesota), relates well to seniors, primarily because, at 61, he is a senior himself. “I’m one of them now. I understand their goals and objectives. They’re not trying to beat the market. They’re trying to save their money rather than look for double-digit returns,” he says. “They are pretty straightforward folks.”

Being part of the group in which an advisor is prospecting, however, doesn’t necessarily ensure success. Dean’s prospecting techniques—a keen ability to listen and a kind heart—are what have helped him grow his practice to almost 400 clients.

A prospecting personality
Dean’s giving nature and outreaching personality provide him with prospecting opportunities. “I volunteer with seniors. For about 20 years I was part of a singing group, going around to nursing homes each week. I was involved with a lot of the homes and the seniors and the families who were in the homes visiting,” says Dean. Those families often turned to him for help with their parents’ financial situations—and their own.

“I also belong to associations and organizations made up of those who are 55 and over. I am prospecting in my circle of influence, which is older now,” he adds.


Patience, sensitivity
In addition, Dean develops partnerships with people and professionals around him to widen his circle. “I’ve put together a coalition of funeral home employees, staff from senior citizen centers, nonmedical caregivers, an estate-planning attorney and our staff. We do two seminars a year, inviting prospects to receive information on all those areas," he explains.

Like most astute advisors, Dean doesn’t address specific products in his seminars. “They really don’t like product seminars is my experience,” he says. Instead, Dean and his staff approach seminars this way: If an attendee wants to discuss final-expense planning, for example, he is prompted to speak to the funeral director present. If he wants information on elder-care options, he is prompted to speak to the representative from a senior citizen center. If he wants to speak about long-term care or its effect on a person’s estate plan, he is encouraged to talk to the nonmedical caregiver or the attorney who is present.

Dean finds that this approach does more for building relationships—and ultimately making sales—than a dog-and-pony show about product features. For example, he says, “The nonmedical caregiver and attorney do a lot for our long-term care insurance sales. We do financial planning and recommend product sales, which, depending on a client’s situation, should enhance his lifestyle.”

According to Dean, success in the senior market depends a lot on advisors’ sensitivity and level of patience. A good rule of thumb is to make no assumptions. “I think it’s really important when we do our factfinding that we find out how much risk seniors can tolerate. We assume because they’re seniors that they want a fixed rate, and many times that’s not accurate; you’ve got to listen,” he says.

Common courtesy
Advisors also have to be prepared to listen when senior clients just feel like talking, even if they are not interested. “Most of them have a lot of time on their hands and think nothing of coming in and killing a half-hour,” says Dean. His staff doesn’t mind because talking about things they know about helps them open up, which is key to relationship building. “We don’t want them to look or feel dumb,” he stresses. “It’s easy to make fun of them or intimidate them, and they see right through that. So we’ve tried to make our office a friendly place to be, with a pleasant environment and a friendly staff that makes people feel welcome.”


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