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Dr. Insurance

Jamie Fleischner’s mother was lucky enough to purchase disability insurance early in her career. Had her mother waited even a few years, she would have been uninsurable, as an autoimmune disorder began to take hold of her body.

Seeing how that policy made a difference in her mother’s life — and how her mother bought the coverage at just the right time — has helped drive Fleischner’s success in DI sales.

“This is something I emphasize to people — one of your biggest risks is not just becoming disabled, but becoming uninsurable,” Fleischner said. “Purchasing DI when you are young and healthy is key.”

Fleischner has built a thriving practice providing physicians and other medical professionals with DI coverage. DI is her passion, although she also provides individual life and long-term care insurance.

She founded Set For Life Insurance in 1999 in the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village. Fleischner, 46, produces more than 800 DI applications per year and is the leading DI producer for Principal Financial and one of the top five DI producers for Guardian.

She attributes much of her success to her ability to “speak the language” of her clients in the medical profession.

“The majority of my clients are highly educated and are very busy,” she said. “They want to work with someone they can relate to who is credible and respects their time. Because they come to me by a strong referral source, they are ready to proceed but need to be guided well through the process. Most of them have already done some research and have some knowledge of what they want or need. I do my best to distill the complexity of the policies into simple, easy-to-make decisions.”

Fleischner also grew up speaking the language of insurance. Her father, Bruce Kantor, has been an insurance broker for more than 30 years, first in Colorado and now in North Carolina. Although her father always spoke favorably about the insurance business, he never attempted to push her into it, Flesichner said.

“She feels passionate about what she does, and she was wise enough to be able to tap into the millennial market and know what they think,” Kantor said. “She doesn’t work like most insurance agents. She marches to her own drum.”

Kantor recognized that his daughter displayed an entrepreneurial spirit at an early age.

“When the other little girls were playing mother and dragging their dolls around, Jamie had a pretend day care center in the basement of our house,” he said. “She had her dolls lined up in the day care center, she had her cousin working for her, she wrote paychecks and she wrote bills to the dolls’ ‘mothers.’”

He also recalled that when Fleischner was in high school, she became involved in Distributive Education Clubs of America, where her business talent was nourished even more.

Fleischner began her journey toward becoming a DI producer when she was a student at Washington University in St. Louis. She signed on as a student agent with Northwestern Mutual.

“I actually got licensed and trained as an insurance agent while I was still in college,” she said.

But Fleischner said that starting out in the business before the internet age was challenging.

“They gave us no leads. I had to do it all on my own,” she recalled. “I was in a city where I knew no adults except for those on my college campus. I had to learn it the hard way.”

But Fleischner took the attitude that “if this is what I am going to do, I need to completely embrace it.”

‘You Can’t Dabble’

So she rearranged her college schedule and took five classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She went into the office Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And she studied all weekend.

“I was working 30 hours a week and in school 30-40 hours a week,” she said. “If you’re going to be a success, you have to be all in. You can’t dabble.”

Fleischner’s parents moved from Colorado to North Carolina while she was in college. So she faced the decision on where to move after graduation.
She knew that she wanted to stay in the insurance business, but didn’t want to be a captive agent. She found a job with a Denver-area insurance agency that would provide her with training and would allow her to keep her clients if she decided to strike out on her own.

But a family tragedy helped solidify Fleischner’s commitment to the DI market.

Soon after Fleischner moved to Colorado, her parents traveled there from North Carolina to attend her sister’s wedding. Fleischner’s mother became ill and could not return home. Fleischner spent the next year and a half as her mother’s caregiver, accompanying her to and from the hospital and overseeing her needs. Her mother eventually died while waiting for a double lung transplant.

DI soon became her passion, for two reasons. “One, because I saw the way it worked,” she said. “The other thing was, I was so young when I started in the industry and I realized early on that I can talk to anybody about disability insurance, whether they’re single or married, whereas with life insurance, you really had to wait until people had dependents. So I thought I had a larger prospect base by focusing on DI.”

A week after her mother died, Fleischner’s boss committed suicide. “After that, my personal and professional lives were falling apart,” she said. “So I decided to go out on my own.”

“I only want to work with the people who I can help, who I get excited to talk to every day,” she said. “If I could envision my favorite clients, they would be young doctors. So that’s where I really started niching myself. Then, as my clients started to move all over the country, they would refer me to others. Now, 25 years later, I’m licensed in all 50 states. I’m all over the place, all over the country.”

Finding The Right Prospects

When she was first starting in the business in St. Louis, Fleischner obtained some clients from Washington University Medical Center. From there, she asked for referrals. When she moved back to Colorado and began taking her mother to appointments at University of Colorado Hospital, she also made appointments with medical residents to discuss DI. “Once I had a foothold with a few, I would ask for the names of their colleagues and I would meet multiple physicians,” she said. Her DI business began to snowball.

Fleischner has come a long way from the days when she prospected through cold calling and direct mail. Her business is fueled almost exclusively by referrals. “My clients become my ambassadors and refer me to their colleagues,” she said. “A lot of my clients are now in positions of authority and recommend me to others. I am also asked to speak to resident groups, and I am featured in some of my clients’ blogs and podcasts where they promote me by social media.”

Selling DI is a matter of marketing to the right prospects, Fleischner said.

“It’s hard to sell to blue collar, gray collar prospects because the premiums are disproportionate to what they‘re taking home,” she said. “So if you’re working with people who don’t have any discretionary income, they probably need DI because they can’t get by if they lose their income. But they can’t afford the premium. If you are going to be successful in the disability marketplace, you need to work with people who have the income level that they can afford the premiums.”

Fleischner’s husband, Jeff, joined her in the practice after he was looking for a change from his career as an attorney dealing with workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. “He does a lot of the back-end detail work, behind-the-scenes kinds of things,” she said. “And we have some staff people but we outsource a lot of stuff.”

The Fleischners have two teenage sons and three border collies. A good bit of their time is spent walking the border collies. “We walk them 6½ miles every single day. Ten months of the year, we walk them 1½ hours a day,” she said.

The family also enjoys world travel, having visited Europe and Japan, and is planning a trip to Africa this summer.

All insurance advisors should offer DI as part of their product mix, Fleischner said.

“If they’re not offering it as part of a plan, they’re doing their clients a disservice,” she said. “There’s a lot of business out there. Right now, sales are flat but there’s a tremendous opportunity in that field.”

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Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan. Contact her at [email protected].

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