Cover - Selling Final Expense Insurance: 109 Agents Tell The TRUTH About What It’s REALLY Like…

Selling Final Expense Insurance: 109 Agents Tell The TRUTH About What It’s REALLY Like…

By David Duford - January 02, 2023 - 5 Mins Read

If you are researching the final expense insurance market, you are probably seeing positive acclamations and accolades about the final expense business from people who are recruiting you, right?

They rave about the opportunities and then end with a pitch to get you to work with them. Is it all that great?

Well, yes and no…

Before you jump into the deep end, you need to understand a few important factors of selling final expense insurance. If you are not prepared when going into this business, you could end up investing thousands of dollars and not seeing any return!

For example:

  • How do successful final expense agents find leads?
  • How do they maintain a steady income?
  • And, what sales strategies work best?

This article will answer those questions based on data I collected from real life successful final expense agents. Keep reading to gain invaluable insight!

How The Data Was Collected

I ran this survey at the end of December, 2021, and advertised it between my social media on YouTube, Facebook, and then also largely through my email newsletter list.

I asked all insurance agents to participate, to fill this out. There was no incentive for them to do it.

This is an anonymous survey, so there’s no brownie points awarded to anybody in particular who completed it.

I wanted this to be anonymous, to give you real life perspective on the business itself. We had 109 who completed it. In this article we will look at their responses.

Sales Strategy Focus And Experience 

The question I first asked was, “How would you describe your final expense sales strategy focus?” 

The chart below shows the results of the survey.

Here are the results:

  • 60% of respondents sell only face to face
  • 28.2% only sell over the phone
  • 11.8% sell using a hybrid method of both in person and telesales

The next question, “How long have you been selling final expense?

  • Exactly two out of three people who completed the survey have one year or longer of experience selling final expense.
  • Then basically the other third has less than a year.

The Top Reasons Why Agents Choose To Sell Final Expense

The next question I asked is, “What resonates the most with you regarding the benefits of selling final expense insurance?”

The big things that stick out to me on this pie chart:

  • earning potential,
  • the entrepreneurial benefits of running your own business,
  • a simple product to learn,
  • A one call close product

Earning Potential

The big takeaway here on the graph is what makes final expense really cool for the people who are short and long-term successful is number one, their earning potential.

You’re going to find a lot of other content creators on YouTube out there that are putting out interviews with top producers that are making significant incomes, many well above the six figure earning potential.

I think this is one of the biggest benefits about the final expense business. It is a clear six figure income earning opportunity and the data from people who we pulled said the same thing.

Run Your Own Stable Business

Also, of course, I think a big benefit that obviously the audience thought of is the entrepreneurial side of this business.

Again, I don’t call this a job. Some people do. This is a career, but more importantly, it’s a business.

You’re now in the insurance sales business and you now have autonomy from the regular corporate bull crap, BS that we have to deal with if you ever worked in corporate America, and you get to actually run your own business.

Control And Flexibility

You set your own time, you set your own schedule, you get to see who you want to see, run appointments the way you want to, and really envision and outlive the business model that you desire.

You Can Start Selling Quickly

It’s a simple product to sell. Final expense is not complicated, it’s a simple business to enact, but it does take dedication.

It’s unlike a lot of other products out there where you have to do a lot of underwriting. You have to wait weeks to get an approval, or it takes a lot of technical know-how to understand and learn the product and convince the prospect.

I think the fact that it’s simple and entrepreneurial was a very good thing about the business that the audience thought as well.

Close Capability

Lastly, clearly the one call close capability is huge.

You don’t see this in all insurance products. You do see it in some, but the fact that you can close this deal, and when we say close, that means sell the policy to a client and have them approved, and then you get paid the next couple of days is one of the best things about the final expense business that we all absolutely love.

Comments From Survey Participants 

Now, let’s consider some comments from some of the people that participated.

The question here is, “Please expand on why you think or why you said the benefits that you did.”

I’ll throw out a couple of things people said.

Location Freedom, Work From Home If You Want

“Work from home.”

I think if you’re certainly a virtual or a telesales person, you can work and sell from the comfort of your home office, even if you’re face-to-face and you’re going out there in the field.

You don’t have an office like a traditional environment to go through. You’d go to your client’s house and do what you need to do. No income limit.

Unlimited Opportunities

“There’s no caps in many of the opportunities that’s out there.” 

That’s a nice thing, too. You make what you earn, you eat what you kill. The buck stops with you.

And for those people who really thrive on responsibility and having the whole weight of the world rested on your shoulders, this business is a great thing, I think, for sure.

Final expense leads are the easiest leads I can get a hold of. Again, in a lot of other business models, I was talking to an annuity gentleman earlier today, it’s very difficult to get annuity leads at an affordable price and volume.

This is not the case with final expense. There are many opportunities for different types of leads. Again, of course, the quality varies between the types of leads, but you can scale up and get lots of leads and stay busy pretty much in any market. 

Easy To Get Started

If you don’t have that capability, final expense can give it to you. It’s also, one commenter said here, the lowest barrier to entry [in selling insurance].”

Again, I think that’s a wonderful thing too, because the final expense, you don’t need to drop $50,000 or $100,000 into some franchise opportunity where there may not be the opportunity guaranteed to be successful. And it isn’t for final expense either.

High Return/Good Income

But one of the cool things for final expense is that really, you can go out there with a couple thousand dollars, make sales, reinvest your earnings, and then complete that cycle of buying more leads and scaling higher and deriving a fantastic income.

Continuing on here, I think there may be one more benefit I want to touch on. To me, the number one benefit of selling final expense is the ability to make a lot of money without having any real talent. 

A seasoned agent can put $200,000 up a year without a college degree, robust technical skills, or any family, or political connections. Again, this is 100% true. As I said before, it’s a simple product and a simple business. However, your success will depend on your work ethic, dedication, and adherence to the system.

It doesn’t matter what your background is, guys. You don’t have to have a sales background. The opportunity in this business is absolutely fantastic.

Again, time and again, the agents I’ve recruited, many of them weren’t even in sales when they first came into this business. They may have never run their own business. So, it’s a fantastic opportunity with great upside potential.

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Job Security And Control

The benefit of doing any entrepreneurial endeavor is that it’s the only true form of security. Consider, how secure are you in your corporate job as soon as they start to make cuts? Or the economy falters and you’re on the chopping block. When it comes to a straight commission job, as long as you can perform, you got a job.

One survey participant said, “If you have a traditional job, you can be fired at any time, for any reason. If you know how to sell and run a business, like in final expense, you can make six figures with minimal effort. Once you have this system in place, nobody is going to take that from you.”

Totally agree with that, when you have a clear system and your ducks in a row, you can create a stable income from this business.

What’s Most Difficult About Selling Final Expense?

The next question I ask is, “In your experience, what makes selling final expense difficult?”

I want to talk about what’s difficult about this business too, because maybe you’re thinking about getting into this business but you’re thinking “Hey, it’s not all good. It can’t be.” And it’s true. There are always difficulties with any business. This is something I’ve realized after I initially failed out of the final expense business.

I started the business, within 12 months I had run out of money and failed.  I had to start a job somewhere. Shortly after I came back and gave it another go. I adjusted my approach and it really worked. I now run a successful agency and provide resources to many new agents to help them get started.

So basically, the reason I initially struggled with this business was because I overcomplicated my approach and didn’t understand the fundamentals. You can avoid this by learning from experienced agents and completing your due diligence before you get started.

So what makes it difficult? Take a look at the result…

To be a mature person, that means you’ve got to accept the good with the bad. The final expense business is no different. Let’s take a look at some of the things that agents think are some of the bad things about the business.

Lead Quality

One of the biggest differences between telesales and face-to-face lead generation is the quality of leads you aquire. 

All insurance agents depend upon purchasing leads to be successful in final expense. We don’t do a network marketing approach.

We don’t bother our friends and family until they never pick the phone up from us again and we die alone. We’re buying leads and we’re running appointments.

That’s cool, right? Because we don’t have to bother friends and family, at least not initially, maybe when we learn the business a little better, we can. But it allows us to find a whole pool of prospects without the traditional approach.

Rookie Mistake When Buying Leads

So where does the big issue of lead quality come in?

It becomes a problem with new agents, not all leads are the same. Some leads are better than others. One of the constant, always ongoing issues, any agent is going to have happen to them is dealing with questions and concerns with quality of leads.

I assure you, this issue doesn’t go away. It’s always there. It is something that has to be managed, not eliminated. You always have to keep a pulse on where you can find good leads. You need to maintain access to other lead pools if your current primary lead program comes up short.

Top Lead Source

Just like in this survey, direct mail is king, especially if you’re face-to-face, but having other lead vendors, of course, especially if you’re doing telesales, like live transfers, outbound leads, it’s absolutely important. Getting that step right is critical to your long-term success.

Many Struggle Dealing With Final Expense Prospects

Moving on, another thing that appears to be synonymous between telesales and face-to-face agentsour lower income prospects is being the difficult part of this business to master. Let me explain to you what this means to me.

Who Are Your Main Prospects?

When you get into final expense, you’re not dealing with middle class America. You’re dealing with low income Americans, working class Americans, people who are 50 and older, who worked on a line, who worked at an entry level job, that aren’t rich at all.

They are basically scraping by month to month, usually on their Social Security check and they have very little savings, if any, at all.

How Do You Sell To Lower Income Individuals?

You need to understand the mentality of somebody who is a low income person. It is a bit different than probably your own.

In fact, one of the things I constantly tell my prospects, or talk to my agents about all the time, is that you’re not your prospect. The things that we do in our sales presentation and our prospecting strategy may not jive with how you think you would like to be interacted with on a sales basis.

You have to be able to differentiate how you would do things if you were a prospect versus how you do things as an agent with your prospects in the lower income segment of society. There’s a difference in how we deal with our clients.

John Dugger, a gentleman that I’m interviewing in a couple weeks, believes the number one thing with success in this market is understanding how your prospect thinks and understanding your market.

What Issues Will You Face With These Prospects?

I think that’s critical to understand. What are some things about the low income market that maybe are off-putting?

The consistency of believing in the purchase that they made? Again, one of the problems that comes with final expense is this, the chargeback issue.

If you’re overselling somebody in a fixed income scenario, they can’t afford it, and they have to lapse it. Or maybe you talked them into something that they changed their mind on.

These are issues that are able to be overcome, but they’re issues nonetheless, and I think that relates to the lower income segment of society.

Difficult Face-To-Face Locations

Plus, if you’re face-to-face, a lot of agents will complain about the living situation some people are in, or feeling dangerous in certain neighborhoods.

Again, if you don’t like that, that’s why there’s telesales. You can get on the phone and call and have no problems with that stuff. But these are things that are part of the business that you can’t avoid. You’re going to deal with this on some level. It is what it is.

If you’re not comfortable selling this particular segment of society, it might not be for you. I know it isn’t for many people who end up quitting the business, they just are turned off by it.

For me, I love doing it. I love working with elderly people. I found that they’re the salt of the earth. They’re particularly a unique group of people, how they think and what they do.

They are what they are, and you live to accept it and kind of deal with it anyway. The more that you grasp that concept, and you might not until you do it for a while, the better off, I think, you’ll be.

Low Residual Passive Income Opportunity

Another issue to consider is: It is a low residual passive income earning opportunity. Now, why is this important? Because one of the issues long-term with final expense is that you can’t retire from the residual income.

You can’t create a pension check, if you will. You can’t stop working and still get paid as easily as you would with say property, and casually, or what we like at Duford Insurance Group, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement products.

So, final expense makes a great first year driven product. The commission is very good on it on a first year basis, but it falls off in lucrativeness as a residual type product.

There’s no real way to make that work in the final expense business if you want to turn this into a residual business. It really only works, as you can see from other IMOs out there that are heavily recruiting, they really endorse the agency building side of things.

That does somewhat create a passive income. I wouldn’t say it’s passive entirely because if you stop training, and stop taking care of your agents, they leave you, as they should. But for me, what we teach agents to do, if you’re new here and you want to create passive income, this is where Medicare comes in.

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One Option For Passive Income

Medicare pays a lifetime income if you sell what’s called a Medicare Advantage product. It pays $24 a month.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but if you get paid $24.00 times a thousand cases per month that adds up. We at Duford Insurance have agents that are writing a thousand clients in less than three years. So they are reaching those numbers pretty quickly!

Yes, people die, people quit plans, but you’ll still write business. You’ll get referrals. So, it tends to take care of itself if you take care of your clients.

If you’re interested in passive income, then final expense is definitely not the solution to that, but it is kind of a bridge in to Medicare for many of the people that work with us and other agencies as well to build that passive income.

Diving Deeper Into The Comments From The Survey

What are some issues or challenges agents face that you may not expect? Take a look.

Emotional Customers

  • “Don’t like selling to people who are so emotional, they think they can’t afford $40 a month.”

This comes with the scenario of who we’re dealing with. A dollar a day for some people is tight and may be difficult. Marketing and leads will always be an issue. This probably was leads being the number one issue.

Lowered Commissions

  • “I’ve used several vendors through the years, including doing it myself, which I don’t recommend. The thing I do not like for these 40 plus years in is the lowering of commission second year and beyond.”

Again, the residual issue. That’s a change that was made with these products about 10, 15 years ago. The residuals dropped off tremendously for a higher first year commission.

We can compensate for bad leads with telemarketing and even going door to door. But companies, commissions cannot be overlooked. We’re in this business to make money, but the insurance companies continue to take it from us.

Expensive Lead Costs

“Lead costs are insane now.” Cost issues are definitely a thing.

I know I’ve seen direct mail go through the roof relative to even where it was five, seven years ago. Some of you remember when Facebook leads, maybe in ’17 and ’18 were like 15 bucks a lead for face-to-face.

Now it’s like double the price. That’s because there’s so many more agents into this business than they’re used to. And we can thank all those mass recruiters out there for bringing them in and driving prices up.

Mass Recruiting, Lead Acquisition Issues, and Deceptive Sales Tactics

  • “It is definitely the case that the biggest deterrent is that the incentives of an IMO are not actually aligned with the agent, even though they appear to be. Mass recruiting IMOs don’t care how much you actually are profiting, how quality your leads are, or even if you’re using deceptive sales tactics.”

I wouldn’t say they all think that way. I don’t think that way personally, just for the record. I’m sure some of them don’t kind of turn a blind eye to stuff for sure though.

Multi-Level Marketing Schemes

  • “They stack the hierarchies deep so that the unsuspecting upline number 12 absorbs the roll up debt instead of the agency itself. Agents leave those opportunities with no money, bad habits, and trust issues. Definitely a problem if you’re into that multi-level marketing side of the business.

This is why we talk at length about finding an agency that’s more dedicated to your skill development as opposed to recruiting anybody that you know with a pulse.”

  • “I didn’t know I was joining an MLM, multi-level marketing company. It’s only when I joined, I heard about adding to my downline, recruiting people. Also, we have to find and purchase our own leads.” That’s typical. Again, these are things that can be mitigated if you join an agency and you ask the right questions upfront. I miss the social life with other agents.”

This is a lone wolf type of business, guys. I don’t know if you know this by now, whether you sell face-to-face or over the phone, you’re kind of on your own.

We are doing monthly events with our agents and other agents, but that might be the last time that agent may see a real life, other agent who has a similar career arc, right?

Should Final Expense Agents Be Captive or Independent?

The vast majority of people are saying that being an independent agent is better than captive. Let me explain to you what I meant by this and kind of what this means if you’re new or you’re thinking about the business.

Independent Agents

An independent agent is somebody who is not married to one product. They represent multiple carriers, and they can shop around to try to find the best combination of price or coverage.

Captive Agents

Somebody who’s captive, generally only represents one company, or they’re with an IMO that they push one product heavily at the expense of better products they may have.

They may even call themselves independent, but they push a product heavily that is high priced, has gimmicks associated with it, and therefore gets replaced a lot. This is what it means in my mind to be captive.

What’s The Best Choice And Why

I believe that being an independent agent is king because we’re not married. We don’t push products. We’re here to help our clients define the best combination of price and coverage. If it’s company A, it’s company A.

I have four other carriers I’m starting with as a new agent that I can pick from. So, I’m not sitting here questioning my own ethics, pushing something that’s too high a price relative to something else because I’m being financially incentivized to push a high price product because they pay me more for it.

So, being a broker or independent agent, kind of synonymous terms, interchangeable, gives you more access. You likely sell a more competitive product.

In turn, more of what you sell sticks on the books. This is a very important point that you won’t hear from a lot of agents. You see this in the survey, but the recruiters out there really never pay attention to the importance of being a true broker.

Risks Of Being A Captive Agent

When you are a captive agent, your company want you to push one particular product in many cases.

Mediocre Products Risk Chargebacks

That product isn’t necessarily the best combination of price or coverage. Many times, a lot of that product that’s placed gets replaced. And then you end up with what’s called a chargeback where you owe back a portion of the commissions you earned because Mildred, our archetypal final expense client, had another agent come in the door.

She decided to get a better combination of value and price, and just dumped your deal down the curb because it just wasn’t the best deal anymore, right? It was just business, strictly business.

But the problem is recruiters won’t tell you this as obviously as I’m doing. You may end up 6-12 months down the road owing a lot of money, pushing a product that you never should have, and ending up in what’s called chargeback hell. It’s not fun.

Captive Agents Can’t Offer Variety, Independent Agents Can!

It’s a lot of pain and suffering. It can be avoided in a large way by being an independent agent, a true independent agent, where you’re not told to sell one product over another.

You have a collection of options that you choose that’s going to be in the best benefit of the client, that you’re not necessarily financially incentivized to push it.

You’re incentivized because it’s the best deal because the pay is all pretty much the same. These are things that really matter that you should be thinking about, and this is why I wanted to identify this.

More options for accommodating client budget. Remember, we’re dealing with fixed income seniors, right? So, they’ll switch over $10, $15 a month savings.

Carriers Are Not A One And Done Deal, Diversify

You absolutely want to be sure that you’re doing it and having access to different carriers. One carrier cannot meet all clients’ needs to give them enough coverage and the most bang for the buck.

If you think one carrier’s going to do the job for most of the circumstances, you’re in trouble. And if you try to push that idea, that falsehood, then my guys are coming behind you, and you’re going to get replaced. I don’t care if you’re a really good agent.

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If you push garbage, garbage in garbage out, you’re going to get replaced. More carriers means a better opportunity to sell in the home. If you have more options, you have more options, and you probably can convert more of your presentations in the sales, better sales too.

Build Rapport With One Company, If It’s A Good Option

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’m a big proponent of having a large statement with one carrier, meaning trying to put business as much with one carrier.

To have a carrier whose trip you qualify for every year and who gives you special treatment is invaluable.

Just look at Alan Town, he runs Agent Service Connection, an experienced pro in the business. I did an interview with him. Having a go-to carrier also makes it easier to duplicate your sales processes and control debt. 100% true if you choose to build an agency.

I believe in the idea of pushing a product if it’s okay for the client and the best option, a combination of good value, good price. 

Comments From Survey Participants

  • “I only want to sell, so I like that my IMO gets all the leads, and can serve as a business.” So this person supports captive, due to reduced commission, I think it evens out in the end if you’re a good producer.

This is the perspective of somebody who enjoys being captive. “Yes, I can make higher commissions by being independent and buying my own leads, but the IMO probably spends $80,000 to $100,000 on my leads each year. I would rather make $80,000 with no lead costs than make $180,000 with $100,000 lead costs. It ends up being the same result.

So, if that works for you, that’s a good reason to explain why captive may be a good idea for certain select agents.

Recruiting Vs. Producing: What Should New Final Expense Agents Focus On?

The next question was “Should agents, new final expense agents, start their career exclusively selling final expense, or also simultaneously spending time recruiting agents?” 

Don’t Teach Something You Don’t Know

I believe personally, an agency that pushes recruiting as being equivalently important as selling is short changing, possibly your potential in the business.

One of those reasons is because you need to know how to sell this stuff before you recruit anybody. You don’t hear about doctors who will show you how to do surgeries, but have never done them before. You don’t go join a business to learn the craft of whatever they’re selling or teaching from somebody who’s never done the thing before.

If you can’t make it on your own pin, how can you teach others to be successful?

What you’ll find too, is your upline is your most critical point person when it comes to issues, when you need help, support, and mentorship. And why would you ever want to get support or mentorship from somebody who doesn’t know anything, who’s ignorant? I say ignorant in a respectful way.

I personally support agency building. It’s been the best thing I ever did in my career, but I only did it after I had experienced a couple of years of firsthand experience selling final expense. I don’t think you should be any different.

Trying to cut corners and jump over the requirements, going from crawling to marathon runs is kind of a recipe for disaster.

I’d say slow down, get some street cred, be of actual interest to people who look to you for guidance and support. Be able to tell them, “Hey, not only am I saying, do this. I actually do this for a living or did this for a living.”

If they can’t sell, they will leave. You’re constantly replacing unhappy, disgruntled people who could have been successful. Had you learned to sell and taught them the art of selling?

By the way, most of the craft of selling is not learned from a book. Monkey see, monkey do.

Recruiting Versus Selling Require Different Skills

Then last one here, maybe this is a biased opinion, but I think recruiting and selling are different skills in a lot of ways. 

I’d rather be recruited by someone who’s actually more boring and less showy, but has actually sold success for several years, rather than someone who is three months in and off to a hot start, but a seller recruiter. So many people flame out of their first year.

It kills morale if a person recruits you when they’ve been doing it six months, and then they quit a few months later. That happens a lot too, by the way, guys. That person convinced you and bought you in, and they couldn’t even handle it. At least reach your 13th month before you start recruiting under you.

How To Choose The Best Final Expense Agency, FMO, or IMO

The last question I asked was, “What is the number one factor to consider when selecting an agency or an FMO, IMO?”

The sales training program is the number one thing for face-to-face agents. Having some kind of sales program to learn the business.

Good Lead Programs Are Vital

Then for telesales, it’s outsourced in the lead programs. I think this is important because with telesales, it just isn’t the same accessibility with a lot of these IMOs to quality telesales leads.

Leads are really important. It’s important to work with an IMO that has an opportunity of multiple sources of leads that have been vetted.

So, make sure before joining any telesales agency that you ask about how the lead programs work and make sure that they’re good.

The next factor that’s important is lead programs, having access to high quality leads.

Confirm The Commission Levels

Then commission levels, having commission levels that sustain a profitable business.

That’s important because again, a lot of agencies recruit you at subpar commission levels. They say they’ve got the best commissions in the world, but how would you know? You don’t know what you’re looking at. You’re brand new. So, you got to make sure that you compare commission levels.

The way you do that is by talking to multiple agencies and doing a compare and contrast. Contract issues like release provisions, direct pay, a lot of agents say that’s also really important.

Compare the agents with the year plus industry experience. They said pretty much the same thing, that sales training is number one, lead programs are number two, and commission levels are number three. The fact is, all of that is super important.

Key Takeaways: What Does It Take To Be Successful Selling Final Expense Insurance?

It is estimated that 8% of agents new to the business survive.

The following traits are observable factors successful agents have.

  • You will need a good mentor or a coach.
  • A strict business plan
  • Thick skin
  • A positive self-image.
  • Enough money to support yourself and fund your business throughout the startup phase for at least a year.

Remember that your IMO probably isn’t looking out for you. Don’t drink their Kool-Aid. Don’t let them sell you any dreams.

You need to figure out what you want and get advice from a source that is not profiting off the back of your efforts before you make a decision on who to join to work with.

The main points of this article can be summed up as followers:

  • Maintain healthy lead sources and monitor back up lead sources.
  • Understand your customers mindset and goals, this will help you sell better.
  • You have to be able to hear the word “no” 70% of the time to make a ton of money. If you can handle rejection, manage money, the sky’s the limit.
  • Ride the rollercoaster of the learning curve. You’ll have highs and lows,but don’t give up.
  • The only reason why you will fail this business is if you quit.
  • Read The Slide Edge and The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster, and Go For No, and other self-improvement books, especially if you want to build a team.
  • Know how to sell before you try to recruit someone else.
  • You have to be healthy in order to lead others, watch your associates.
  • Distance yourself from the energy vampires and from the neg folks.
  • Stay focused on why you choose this field, which should be to serve others.

If you have a servant attitude and you’re not primarily driven by money, you make a lot of it. It’s worked for me.

Well, that’s all folks, that is the truth about selling final expense insurance. I hope you guys got some good perspective from this.


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