Unlocking prospect information is a critical skill set that separates the best agents from rest. Recent questions have arisen regarding efficient information gathering. The very best get everything they need from prospects and clients to do a professional job representing them to the market place.
The keys to unlocking prospect information
1. Have a system: Make sure you have a printed list of everything you will need to work on your prospects / clients insurance. Ask your underwriters to describe their “Perfect submission” and endeavor to provide all of the information they request on every account. This will put your submissions on the top of their stack, create a desire to work with you, enhance your reputation and get you the pricing, terms and coverage you need.
2. Set a deadline for the collection of this information with your prospect or client. This deadline should be 30 days prior to when they want their proposal. Explain that every day late will postpone delivery of their proposal. This will give you plenty of time, as most underwriters I work with tell me that they can complete rating in 2-3 days on a complete submission if they have everything they need. The only variable is if underwriting / loss control inspections are required. As a previous loss control rep, if no lengthy travel is required, I processed loss control reports in 1-2 weeks on a consistent basis, and much sooner if a “Rush” was requested.
3. Always get financials and loss runs from your prospect and a BOR for every market you plan to approach. Explain to your client or prospect that the underwriters operate just like banks when you apply for a line of credit. If the applicant has strong financials and good loss experience, providing your underwriter with this information rules out exposures for loss, and can help you negotiate preferred pricing, terms and coverage. Clients with strong financials and a record of low loss ratios should want to leverage these factors to negotiate preferred rates. Provide a letter of confidentiality or non disclosure and sign it.
4. Many agents prefer not to alert the incumbent, which typically occurs when we order loss runs. Quite frankly, I try not to play this game and prefer to have an open discussion with my prospect about the process and suggest they tell their agent up front that they are seeking competitive quotes. I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but their agent will find out eventually, and I prefer to control the process and help coach my prospect on what they can expect from the incumbent. They should be coached on having an honest business conversation with their agent that addresses the rules of engagement on assigned markets, when proposals are due, and that this will be a professional approach with no in fighting, blocking of markets, or favoritism in the form of last looks or sharing of numbers etc. There is no guarantee that your prospect and incumbent will play by the rules, but you have at least established what you expect, and created a professional impression.
5. Get BOR’s for the markets you are approaching and include them with your submission. This will alert your underwriter that your have the authority to represent your prospect. Provide your prospect with a formal request for loss runs on the policies your are quoting and include a line or two describing state laws with respect to timely receipt of loss runs, and request that loss runs be sent directly to your prospect. This will avoid the “Hold onto loss runs game” that less professional agents play. If you must play the game of not alerting the incumbent, use last years loss runs with a letter signed by the insured updating losses and get a quote subject to updated loss runs. This tactic also gives you the opportunity to go back and re-negotiate with your underwriter as they will definitely hold back on their most aggressive pricing without current loss runs. After you deliver your proposal, and the incumbent knows there is competition, if you have time, you can order current loss runs and ask your underwriter to sharpen his/her pencil. Explain to your prospect that the current loss runs can impact pricing and will give you an opportunity and a good reason to get permission to re-load.