You might wonder why you would not always do the planning approach for free. Certainly, you would have more people agreeing to it – or would you? There is a dilemma. Offering a planning approach is a time-consuming service. Your potential candidates will recognize this and will wonder why you are offering your service for free. They may not specifically state their concerns, but suspicions will be there. Of course, you are doing it hoping to sell your products and services. By offering it for free, you may be telegraphing that you have something to sell and that the planning approach is simply a gimmick to get there. We absolutely do not want you or your clients to take this attitude. The planning approach has to be a true service that you are offering because of your attitude for helping seniors in the community. This should be your primary motivation.
The best way to offer a free planning approach and to avoid suspicion is to do it under the umbrella of a local planning Council. The local planning Council is comprised of 5 – 10 senior service providers and advisers with different specialties. The purpose of the Council is to provide senior solutions to aging seniors. The Council also offers a one-stop shopping service to provide all of the necessary services and products to help aging seniors with their challenges. The Council operates as a not for profit organization, meaning that there are no fees for Council educational and planning services. This is spelled out on the Council’s website as well as in brochures and other promotional literature.
Offering planning as a Council works, because candidates often come to you through the Council which has been promoting its services. Services are promoted in various ways, but primarily through educational encounters in the community. People who sign up for these educational encounters are expecting someone from the Council to meet with them and do some future planning. It all fits. Using the Council as an umbrella for the planning approach does not raise suspicions, because individuals with whom you meet are fully expecting that they will be using the services of the Council at some point. You don’t have to explain your motives. The purpose of your planning team is obvious to the community.
You may wish to set up a local Council and receive detailed instructions on how to make it work and how to promote the services of your local planning Council. The National Care Planning Council has a number of these local councils that it supports all over the country. Contact us at the National Care Planning Council to learn more about our training, or free website support for councils and our marketing materials for councils.
If you are not offering your survey as part of a local planning Council and if you are going to do this service for free, you must have a reason to explain to your planning clients why you are doing it. Whether they ask or not, in order to allay their suspicions, you must state the reasons you are providing this service. Perhaps you might simply admit that you make your income from your products and services, but you are willing to help people with their problems first. If there is no need for your products and services, so be it. Your first desire is to serve the community. If your products and services do not fit, your planning candidates have no more obligation to you. If you use this approach, you must truly accept that you are serving the community or you will be deceiving yourself and your potential clients.
Another approach that is close to providing the service for free is to admit to your planning candidates that you do have costs in your time and in assembling the materials for the presentation. This approach might also include your admission that you do make income from your products and services, but if they don’t fit, you still want to be reimbursed for your time and materials. You would explain that you are more than willing to do the survey for them, but you are asking them to reimburse you for your time and for the report materials. You might consider charging $50 or $75 for this service. Or, you can charge a larger fee as long as it is not so large as to have your new clients believe the fee is actually for your advice. Obviously, these smaller fees are not anywhere close to what your time is worth. However, your potential clients will not recognize that fact and will most likely accept smaller fees as a reasonable cost for your time and materials.
If you use this approach of charging a small fee, you must emphasize that the fee is not for for your specific advice. You can explain that the survey will uncover issues and you will help them go over these issues to discover how to solve the various challenges. Your involvement in the planning process is to guide them to understand what they are facing and what the consequences might be. And, if you choose, you can also disclose that if your products or services fit in with finding solutions for their challenges, that is how you will be reimbursed.
Once you actually sit down and go over a Life Resource Survey or Retirement Planning Survey or Life Resource Analysis with them, you can explain your profit motives after you complete that process. After you go through the survey or analysis with them you will then put on your sales hat and explain to them how your products or services fit in with solutions they are seeking. You will explain that you make a commission or a fee off of your products or services and that is how you are reimbursed.
If your newly found planning clients perceive that your small reimbursement fee is instead an advisory or planning fee, you may have a problem. We are going to discuss in article #12 the issue of charging a fee for advice or planning solutions and what you need to do to make sure that you are in compliance with various licensing entities.