Current Events are Sales Opportunities


By Tom Barrett, CIC, AAI

There is a significant discussion about account rounding, account development, and maximizing revenues per account. At the same time, the most difficult and challenging activity for sales people seems to be actually finding and qualifying that new prospect and developing the relationship, rapport, and trust required for having a meaningful dialogue about their current situation and how you can position your value-added services to differentiate you from the competitors. So how can we make this process easier and more efficient? Maximize your sales opportunities through current events! Here are some examples:

  1. Cyber Liability Insurance: Every department of insurance is in the process of developing requirements for agents to acquire and maintain Cyber Liability Insurance as a part of their licensing requirements. It will become as common as today’s E&O insurance. Have you explored the coverage yourself and become an expert at this topic and had that discussion with every current client and prospect in commercial lines? Current federal requirements apply to anyone retaining medical, financial, and personal information, and these are federal requirements with which they must comply. The responsibility and exposure is much larger than the typical add-on limited endorsement offered by many main street carriers. When you hear, “We have cyber coverage,” have the courage to ask deeper questions; you may find their coverage is minimal and very limited in scope. We have a moral and professional obligation to have these discussions, and it’s also a revenue source and retention tool.
  2. Disaster Recovery: Spring brings storms of all types; there are horror stories everywhere you turn. Floods, tornadoes, and late winter storms all occur through the first half of the year. That is rapidly followed by hurricane season and, soon after, the winter storm season reboots, so there is something to talk about all year long. Have you developed a disaster recovery plan for your agency so you can fulfill the professional promises you made to your clients in the event of disaster? Have you educated yourself to the point you can have a meaningful and intellectual discussion about what clients and prospects need to do to assure they recover? When disaster strikes again, we have an obligation to be there and be operational to provide needed services and support the claims process. To do anything less is malpractice – and it is a revenue opportunity.
  3. Independent Contractors and Exempt Employees: The Department of Labor is on a rampage against those cutting corners, avoiding financial obligations, and dodging tax liabilities by designating employees as independent contractors. Independent insurance agencies and brokers are on the top of that list at the Department of Labor. Small business in general is a target for increased revenue for the government through fines and back taxes. Have you reviewed the 15-page memo and conducted the six-part test to assure you’re in compliance with independent contractor vs. employee status, and have you educated yourself to the point you can advise and guide your clients and prospects through this process? Your ability to advise, counsel, and guide is worth its weight in gold to the client in avoiding levied fines, back taxes and wages, and legal and accounting expenses – and it’s a revenue opportunity.
  4. Environmental Liability Insurance: Once only for the select few risks with monstrous environmental exposures, this insurance is now on the minds of many. As William McElroy pointed out in a recent article, it’s not just the large “polluters” that have the concern. Recent disasters and calamities from businesses of all types have put financial pressure on uninsured companies responsible for environmental impairment liability, damage, injury, and cleanup. From storm water runoff, to spillage and leakage of storage facilities, to flooding of an underground parking structures, to everything in between; these events are causing environmental damage and the commercial general liability policy typically has very limited pollution coverage. Unfortunately, most business owners only learn after the loss that they have limited or no coverage. Once they discover the lack of coverage, your E&O carrier’s phone rings if you didn’t discuss it and have them sign off on the coverage checklist. Have you taken the time to educate yourself on the exclusions of the CGL policy, identified your own potential vulnerabilities, and instituted a risk management program to mitigate the exposure? The recent events and costs related to environmental disaster should force us to consider how we might position a conversation with a client or prospect on how to help protect them from this unforeseen liability.

These are but a few examples of current issues that bombard the headlines daily and are on the forefront of the buyers’ minds and of concern. The most challenging endeavor for many producers is getting that first foot in the door to begin dialogue. By choosing current topical dialogue, one is able to differentiate their professional skills from the competitors. It is an efficient way to begin the sales process with both current clients and new prospects. For the producer, it reinforces the probing and questioning skills and keeps the dialogue in the form of “information gathering” and qualifying prospects. This approach positions them to provide customized solutions on current issues not yet identified and addressed by the incumbent agency, nor even possibly realized by the insured.

“Catching the enemy by surprise” is part of the strategy desired to create that differentiation and opportunity to begin building trust and rapport before the expiration date while the incumbent agent is focused on other activities. It provides the opportunity to identify additional areas that were overlooked that could be of immediate concern and cannot wait until the expiration date, giving the soliciting producer the “go ahead” to begin working on the issues mid-term. This strategy also secures current clients from the aggressive competitor that comes in behind you after the renewal process to begin eroding your credibility by uncovering areas you either overlooked or were simply too lazy to cover.

In this new transition to a commoditized insurance climate with what seems to be many national retail organizations nudging into our industry, it’s the differentiator that validates that we are the well-informed trusted advisor who is providing valuable advice. This will never be done o line or through e-mail. We urge you to join the new dynamic world of the current, successful agents who focus on current events.

Tom Barrett, CIC, AAI, is President of the Midwest and Southeast regions of SIAA, Inc. SIAA nationally will add over 400 new agencies and produce over $1 billion in new property & casualty premium in 2015. Tom also serves on the National Faculty for Dynamics of Selling, Dynamics of Sales Management, and Dynamics of Company-Agency Relationships.

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