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The Three Biggest Secrets In Insurance
Motivational speakers love to put the word “secret” in the title of their presentations. I’ve sat through many sessions, and I’ve always wondered what kind of “secret” you can tell on the stage of a packed auditorium? In truth, when it comes to sales, the most important “secrets” are those things that experienced, successful people know but won’t necessarily say. So let me tell you the three biggest open secrets of our insurance business. Secret No. 1: We’re All Selling the Same Thing Many producers waste a lot of breath trying to convince prospects that the insurance products they sell are different from those sold by the competition. This is a very hard sell in itself. Why? Because insurance is a fairly uniform commodity. All of the Big Dogs in the carrier and agency community are offering the same basic thing as their competitors, because it’s virtually impossible to design a new, exclusive product. If you can create a new coverage or rate deviation and file it with the state, I guarantee you that your competitor can, too. This is a powerful “secret’” because it undermines the intuitive approach to sales, which is to announce, "Buy mine, because it’s the best!” When there are 10 other agents lined up behind you with the same product, that’s a tough idea to sell. Unfortunately, most producers insist on sticking with this approach. They spend most of their time with prospects pitching their products, services, and carriers, as well as their agency. The result: Secret No. 2 Secret No. 2: We’re All Saying the Same Thing Sometimes I feel sorry for the junior executives in corporate America who are given the job of meeting with insurance agents. How many times have you told them, “We have a lot of markets, great people, experience, knowledge and good service. Can I offer you a quote?” When 10 different producers are selling the same product - all selling it the same way - you have to wonder how the prospects are able to smile and nod politely as much as they do. It’s not that they’re indifferent. In my experience, if you can break through the clutter and convince prospects that you can, in fact, make a difference for them and their companies, you will have a very interested audience. Once again, producers make the common mistake: They try to break out by focusing on the product. They “go geeky,” laying out elaborate explanations about “coinsurance,” “promulgating the e-mod,” or “updating the unit stat card.” The strategy seems to be to show the prospect how well you understand the insurance industry and how familiar you are with your own products and services. This sends us straight to Secret No. 3. Secret No. 3: Your Prospect Doesn’t Understand Insurance! Although there are a few exceptions to this statement, in most cases business people have only a vague understanding of insurance. They know they have to have it. They know they can get into trouble if they don’t. Review in your mind the prospects you’ve met, and ask this question: How many of them, if you quizzed them right on the spot, know what their policies do and don’t cover? How many prospects know how their business has been marketed, or understand the effect of claims on their price, or the effect of claims reserves on their Workers Comp mod, etc.? How are you going to dazzle these people with your knowledge of risk-analysis theory? Insurance is an arcane, but often expensive, element of a prospect’s business, one that they little hope of, or interest in, fully understanding. As a result, the most important element in the prospect’s decision-making isn’t price or promises of future service. It’s trust. I talked to an agent recently who had obtained an appointment by referral. He had saved his prospect a significant amount of money and improved the coverage. He walked out of that presentation literally glowing with confidence. Two days later, he got the letter. The letter said, in essence, “You’re great! Your price was great, the coverage was great, your proposal was great. Even the vibrant color of your proposal covers was great. “However, unfortunately (for you, fortunately for me) my agent took me to lunch yesterday. He reminded me of all the things he had done for me during the past three years. He assured me that the pricing you brought to the table was unpredictably lower than expected, but he felt sure his company would match it. As a result, I’m not changing. Please feel free to call me next year and save me some more money.” In other words, the deal came down to “I know this guy, I don’t know you. You’re both pushing the same thing, so I’ll stick with the guy I know.” How do you break this cycle? That’s the topic of another column, but let me make a few suggestions. First, shift your focus from sales presentations to sales interviews. Get curious about what’s really going on inside your prospect’s head. Ask yourself: “If I were the buyer, what would really be important to me?” “What surprises would concern me” “What’s wasting my time?” In particular, focus on the elements of insurance that prospects already dislike: the unpredictability and their seeming lack of control over these costs. If you can show how you can put prospects in charge, that the way you deliver services will empower them and put them in control, you will their attention. Second, look for ways to establish rapport, to help prospects feel comfortable sharing their goals with you. Dig deep. Be curious. Stop assuming you already know what prospects want and why they want it. Finally, when prospects have identified their goals clearly, find specific ways to use your unique abilities to achieve those goals. Take yourself out of the uninteresting, confusing arena of insurance, and put yourself into a conversation that prospects will find much far fascinating - how insurance can help them succeed. Chances are, this is a conversation that they’ve never had with the incumbent agent. It’s not easy - but the other option is failure. It’s no secret that winning is always harder than losing. The real secret is to understand that the game you’re playing isn’t about the quality of the insurance you sell or the agency you represent. The secret to success lies in your unique ability to help your clients succeed!
Managing Risk: A Guide For Your Business Client, Part 4 Of 4
MANAGING RISK: A GUIDE FOR YOUR BUSINESS CLIENT Part 4 of 4 INSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT This is the generally accepted sequence of risk management activities: The risk of loss is identified and measured. It's reduced as much as feasible by loss-prevention techniques. The loss is accepted as a budgeted cost to the extent that it can be fitted in to the financial picture. As a last resort, the losses that can't otherwise be treated are transferred. Insurance is the usual means. Insurance is so important as a risk-management tool and its cost so visible that other aspects have received relatively little attention. Nevertheless, they all tie together into the overall risk-management picture. Risk Identification It almost goes without saying that risks must be identified before they can be treated. This is one of the measures of a good risk manager. Here are just some risks that occasionally elude the public agency risk manager: Loss of revenue from shutdown of an income-producing activity: utility, toll road or bridge, auditorium, and so forth Loss of taxes because of destruction of a principal taxpayer's property Extra expenses from administrative dislocations following any catastrophe Extra expenses from hand processing data after loss of data-processing facilities Unusual types of liability, such as liquor liability, that are not perceived as important until an unforeseen situation Loss Prevention Safety programs affect insurance costs indirectly by reducing losses (which in turn indirectly affect premiums), but few safety measures are recognized in liability rating. To find out exactly what measures are important, ask your insurance agent for a breakdown of your rating factors. Larger Workers Compensation programs will also have factors tied to loss prevention, so get a copy of that schedule, too. Fire rating is directly affected by a number of building and contents hazards. The premium often can be directly affected by improving conditions. A cost-benefit analysis can follow identification of the charges and credits in the rating schedule. This should be performed periodically. Breadth of Coverage When planning insurance, the most important points are complete coverage and adequate limits. Complete coverage gives the most trouble. With Property insurance, the goal is to have all-risk protection rather than 'named perils' coverage. The latter covers such perils as fire, windstorm, and explosion, and can create a false sense of security because it covers most recognized perils. However, insurance is meant to protect against catastrophes however they may arise, and old-timers in the business can recall any number of strange events that caused large losses. For instance, are you protected against damage from flowing molasses after a huge storage tank ruptures? This type of loss has occurred, causing tremendous damage. The point is simple: Even with a vivid imagination, you can't conceive of all the things that can go wrong. All-Risks protection is therefore essential to proper insurance coverage. With respect to property, this is usually written in a Difference-in-Conditions (DIC) policy. The liability equivalent of the DIC is the Umbrella-probably the most important single policy of all. It supplies the needed high limits and broad coverage for the blockbuster liability claim. Be sure it's the broadest possible. Pay a little more if necessary, but don't settle for an inferior Umbrella. Insurance Companies and Their Environment The insurance world is fragmented into many compartments, some of interest and some of no concern to the risk manager. One division that should be of no concern (but which has received inordinate attention) is whether an insurer is a stock company, mutual company, or reciprocal. The form of corporate organization is irrelevant to the buyer. Whether a policy is assessable is important, but major insurers don't issue assessable policies, regardless of their form of management. Briefly, the definitions are: A stock company is owned by public stockholders, just as is General Motors. A mutual company has no stockholders. It's owned by its policyholders. In theory, they vote policy, but in practice they have about as much control as a GM stockholder has over Buick design. A reciprocal insurer is similar to a mutual. It's a group of policyholders combined into a pool that operates through a management organization called an attorney-in-fact. The important point to the insured is the stability of the insurer. Stable and unstable companies exist in each category. The problem-and it's a difficult one-is how to judge stability. The most widely used standard for judging this is provided by the A.M. Best Co. Every year, Best rates all operating insurers on two bases: Policyholders' Rating. Ranges from A+ (excellent) to C (Fair). This is essentially a judgment of underwriting and management. Financial Size. Ranges from Class I (very small) to Class XV (very large). Ratings are often expressed by a combination of the two figures; for example, 'B+, IX.' The Best ratings have only limited usefulness (some insurers with high ratings have become insolvent), so if you're concerned about a particular company, make as many inquiries as possible. The state insurance commissioner is one source. Surplus Lines Insurance companies are licensed in the states in which they operate. They're then subject to regulation by the insurance commissioner. Sometimes the licensed companies are unable to underwrite certain unusual types of risks, which can be written by non-licensed companies. Though unlicensed and unregulated, these companies do a significant amount of business. They are called 'Surplus Lines' or 'Excess Lines' carriers and sell through Surplus Lines brokers, who are regulated. In some cases, you can do business with them directly. Many are large, well-managed companies with an excellent product. (Lloyd's is a surplus lines insurer in all states but Illinois and Kentucky.) Others are a little shaky. Have your broker analyze their stability. Don't hesitate to do business with a good Surplus Lines carrier. Professional Backup Probably the most important single point for the risk manager is to have a highly competent agent, broker, consultant, or other professional resource. Most public agency risk managers look to their agent or broker as the expert. In many cases, this is desirable, but only a few insurance professionals can also call themselves risk-management professionals. Risk-management professionals' credentials should be examined even more closely than the stability of insurance companies. One objective criterion is the extent of their outside study. Look for the CPCU (professional insurance) and RM (professional risk management) designations. Of the two, the CPCU is the more demanding, but the RM more pertinent.
...enas and Stadium Owners •Auditoriums and Fairgrounds •College fr...
Northern States Agency, Inc. (NSA), founded in 1953, is a general agency located in St. Paul, Minnesota. With over 50 years of experience, we have gained in-depth knowledge and understanding of a wide variety of insurance coverages. Utilizing this knowledge, we are able to provide you with timely and professional service for insuring your risks, especially those hard-to-place risks. NSA utilizes various markets to provide many types of insurance coverages, including: Commercial Auto Insurance Garage and Dealer exposures Excess Automobile Liability General Liability Umbrella/Excess Liability Directors' & Officers' Liability Employment Practices Liability Miscellaneous Professional Liability Errors & Omissions Property and Inland Marine Our underwriters work with thousands of independent insurance agents in eight states in the upper Midwest - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois. NATIONWIDE: Auto fleets of 10 or more power units; Excess AL and Excess AL & GL
...ert/Event Promoters Coliseums Auditoriums Performing Arts Centers Pro...
How A Csr Can Ask Clients About Life Insurance
HOW A CSR CAN ASK CLIENTS ABOUT LIFE INSURANCE A group of Los Angeles gang members recently were taken rafting on the Colorado river. Street-smart toughs suddenly became timid boys fearful of the water, the howling of coyotes, even the chirp of crickets. Their hardened exteriors cracked to reveal overwhelming anxiety in the face of the new. A similar fear of the unknown (although perhaps not as overwhelming) confronts CSRs who are asked to generate Life leads for producers. Many CSRs, confident when it comes to Property and Casualty insurance, suddenly freeze with fear when confronted by Life products. It's no cause for shame. Anxiety about the unknown is natural; after all, when CSRs are in the Twilight Zone of uncertainty, they have by definition left their 'comfort zones' behind. CSRs must combat this paralysis. It not only strangles the income of their agencies, but threatens their growth as insurance professionals. Here are four steps to take to overcome the fear of Life: 1. Get to the root of your fear. What exactly is holding you back? Only after recognizing the source of anxiety can a CSR deal with it rationally. Often the sheer act of identifying a fear diminishes it: The child stops fearing the monster in the closet once a light is turned on. The best way to nurture a fear is to keep it in the dark. For example, some CSRs are afraid of appearing stupid. This fear is understandable, generally speaking - but how true is it in an insurance agency? If you're new to the business, rest assured that the people you work with know the difference between ignorance (which is temporary) and stupidity (which is incurable). If you're a seasoned CSR, think back to when you were still a greenhorn about P/C lines. Were you made to feel horribly stupid then? Most likely, people understood that you were still in training, and you emerged from that period with a minimum of embarrassment. And even if you had to endure a lot of shame, you survived it, didn't you? Armed with these thoughts, face your new situation with a plan. Make sure that the appropriate people understand that you are in training and that you will be asking a lot of questions. Forewarned, they will cut you some slack. Far from believing you to be stupid, their respect for you will probably increase, the way your respect increases for someone who has decided to go back to college. Suppose the root of your anxiety is a fear of rejection. Explore that issue. Who is likely to be rejecting you? Your job is to supply Life leads to producers - so if anyone is rejected, it will be them, not you. If you fear that producers will reject your leads, think again. If some of the leads don't pan out, the producers will probably ask for more, not less, of them. As a CSR, you are the producers' life support. They will no sooner scorn you than an emphysema patient will tear a respirator from his nose. 2. Put the change you want to make into perspective. In the movie Hoosiers, a small-town basketball team makes it to the championship finals. As the team of kids enters the arena where they are to play their final game, they balk at the scale of it all: The hugeness of the auditorium, the rows and rows of bleachers. Very sensibly, their coach puts the game in perspective for them. He gets a couple of the kids to measure the basketball court, the height of the baskets from the ground, and so forth - and proves to his team that the distances and heights are exactly the same as on the courts they are used to playing. The kids realize that though the trappings are different, the game is the same. So it is with the P/C CSR who starts generating Life leads. The process of getting leads is the same as ever, and only some of the information is new. The game is the same; the CSR is simply learning a few new moves. 3. Recognize that a certain amount of fear is good. In fact, people who enter a new arena with total confidence are probably too blithe for their own good. The actor who doesn't have stage fright also lacks the adrenaline it takes to give a great performance. 4. Fight fear with fear. Sometimes it takes strong medicine to kill a severe ill. If the three steps just mentioned aren't enough to quell the fear of adding Life to your job description, summon up a bigger fear. Ask yourself, 'What will happen if I don't expand my client services?' The insurance industry is in upheaval. Agencies are struggling to survive. Automation is becoming more and more complex. Producers are scratching harder for a living. Some people are even predicting that insurance will someday become a subsidiary of larger financial institutions, such as banks and stock brokerages. Your survival depends on adaptability. If you think your fear of Life is insurmountable, compare it with your fear of unemployment. Conclusion There's nothing wrong with fear; we all feel it at various points in our lives. It becomes a vice only when it impedes growth. Recognizing and overcoming our fears, however, is a positive accomplishment - and such victories start the momentum that propels us toward even greater achievement.