The main thing you must keep in mind when selling to seniors is the need to be patient, says Turner Thompson, an associate with Ohio National Financial Services in Farmington Hills, Mich. "Relationships are everything with these folks, but like Rome, they won't be built in a day. Seniors are not in a big hurry. They should be, given their age and the fact that no one lives forever, but they're not. They tend to take their time."
Many seniors think they're juniors, he adds. Humans age at a different rate inside than they do outside. Older people usually feel five to seven years younger than they are chronologically. Apart from those jarring moments spent in front of the bathroom mirror, most seniors really do go through life with a young-at-heart attitude. Their minds and bodies seem to be in two different places at the same time -- a characteristic shared by most members of the human race.
So, why do some seniors take so long to make a decision? They're not scatter-brained or disinterested; they simply don't feel the pressure of time the way younger people do.
Understand their concerns
"Seniors have three major concerns," says Norman Bouchard, vice president of education at the Society of Certified Senior Advisors. "First, they want to remain independent. Second, they worry about outliving their assets. Finally, they want to remain in a safe environment, which always means the home they have lived in most of their lives."
Advisors who can satisfy those three needs stand a very good chance of achieving success in the senior market, he continues. They should also understand, however, that seniors are value-oriented. These value perceptions take shape through layers of experience. People who remember the Great Depression, for example, will have a certain view (quite possibly an unfavorable one) of people in the financial business. They will therefore tend to be cautious and conservative.
Their kids, baby boomers, will be less gun-shy about financial services because while they can grasp the concept of the Depression intellectually, it will not have had the same impact on their psyches because it was not a personal experience. Nevertheless, boomers are value-oriented, and as they grow older, will have the same set of fundamental concerns as their parents.
Know their hot buttons
"Seniors have hot buttons," says Bruce E. Dickes, vice president of marketing at Standard Life and Accident Insurance Company in League City, Texas. "They want to be independent. They don't want to be a burden on their families. And while they also want to understand the choices they have in order to exercise greater control over their lives, they want to be sold. Winning with seniors is really a matter of understanding, or at least appreciating, who they are and what they've gone through in their lives."
Seniors are our elders and are worthy of our respect for that reason alone, Dickes adds. They will work happily with an advisor who shows that respect by setting and keeping appointments. They like someone who allows them to make their own decisions instead of muscling them into choices toward which they have some reluctance. In other words, they like someone who will speak their language and have their best interests at heart.
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