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The Rough Notes Company Inc.



April 25
10:07 2019

In an industry flush with competition, agents and brokers need to find ways to stand out—to differentiate themselves from the pack. Five Rough Notes columnists offer ways to do that.


Experts weigh in on how to be different (in a good way)

By Dave Willis, CPIA

In an industry flush with competition from all sides, agents and brokers need to find ways to stand out—to differentiate themselves from the pack. We asked five Rough Notes columnists to share one way to do just that. Here’s what they said:

Take time to understand your clients.

Insurance agents operate within a very competitive marketplace.  Over the last several years, we have seen a rise in the number of carriers offering cookie-cutter insurance solutions directly to small and mid-size businesses.  While these industry giants appear daunting, they simply cannot compete with the single biggest advantage we agents have over them—an in-depth, personal understanding of your client’s coverage needs.

Insurance is not a “one size fits all” commodity.  Every company has its own unique exposures and risk sensitivities.  Taking the time to your client’s business will help you identify gaps in coverage.  Develop a customized insurance solution that addresses these deficiencies: employment practices, cyber liability, etc.  Who knows? You might even sell some!

—Frank Huver, Rockwood Programs

“Cover Holders & Risk Takers” columnist

Communicate in a meaningful way.

People buy from insurance agents because they like knowing a competent professional is looking out for their best interests on an ongoing basis. If communication is impersonal or patchy—clients stop feeling like their agent has their back— and insurance itself begins to feel more and more like a commodity.

The trick is to have at least a couple personal and impactful interactions with each client during the year. It doesn’t even need to be insurance related. As long as the client feels like you are taking the time to communicate with them on a personal level, and in a meaningful way, they are more likely to believe you’re also working for them behind the scenes.

 —Carl Maerz, Rocket Referrals

“Blasted Myths” columnist


A lot of producers can get in the door of a prospective new business account, but savvy prospects will be able to distinguish those who genuinely know their business from those who don’t. Choose a niche and learn as much as you can about it.

Then learn how your insurance companies address the exposures that are unique to your chosen specialty. Perhaps just as important, learn how the competition writes coverage for your niche; knowing this will allow you to set yourself – and the carriers you represent – apart from the competition.

Marc McNulty, The Uhl Agency

“Mind the Gap” columnist

Be relentless in preparation.

Every event and every opportunity deserve your very best. Being your best starts with relentless preparation.  Those who practice get better and those who don’t, don’t!

Relentless preparation starts with identifying what a future ideal client looks like—account type, size, class of business, and so on. Next, complete a Targeted Account Strategy Plan, which addresses specifically how you’ll get the all-important first appointment. Before the appointment, identify the main underwriting concerns on the class of business.  (We refer to this as “taking the underwriter’s view” on the account.) Based on research, develop the first three risk-based questions you’ll ask the prospect. One of the best tools to use in this part of the prep is Rough Notes Advantage-Plus.  Most producers don’t complete an industry-specific risk survey. If you really want to differentiate yourself, ask the prospect to share a copy of the last industry-specific risk survey their current agent completed.

A huge part of relentless preparation is rehearsing your presentation before the event, not afterwards in your car, saying to yourself, “Next time I’ll do better”.  As one of our recent producer training camp attendees said, “I’ve got to stop practicing my presentation during the actual presentation!”

—Roger Sitkins, Sitkins Group

“Winning Strategies” columnist

Make—and keep—a promise.

Your brand is what clients think when they hear your insurance agency’s name. It’s an impression built on their experience and the messaging you’ve communicated to them. Your brand already exists it is derived from who you are, what you stand for, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be. Your brand is perception and that it is why it is so very important to your insurance agency’s growth and its future.

In our agency, we have been able to actively influence the impressions people have of our brand. We’ve been successful in doing this with what we call the Paradiso Promise. It’s a 12-point commitment we make to prospects, customers, and clients covering everything from how the customer is treated to setting expectations and more. I am convinced that our promise differentiates us from competitors, whether that’s the agency down the street or a national direct writer. As a local business owner and life-long resident of my community, I share with customers and prospect that I stand behind this promise. If someone sees my team live out this promise—or if we happen to miss the mark—I want to know.

Are you prepared to make promises to your customers and prospects? More important, are you able to keep them? If so, it’s a great way to set yourself apart in an increasingly competitive and noisy space.

 Chris Paradiso, Paradiso Insurance

“Tactical Tech” columnist

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