By Ken Kukral
By the time you read this post, we will know who won the NCAA College Football National Championship. My hope is that it is Ohio State (the underdog), but either way I hope it is a great game. I am sure I am going to need to catch up on some sleep when it is over.
As we start to implement our plans for 2015, business, personal and other areas of our life, there will be times when we are the “underdog”. There is nothing wrong with being considered the underdog, but it might be wise to know by “how much”. Much like how a team prepares when they are a 3 point underdog versus how they prepare when they are a 35 point underdog, it will be different. A team at a significant disadvantage needs to have a near perfect game if they are to win and need to get momentum in their favor.
So when you go after an account, how well do you prepare your strategy to go after it? Do you go in and just get quotes and hope you win the account? Did you do some research and find out what it might take to have them fire their current agent and bring you on? When you are the underdog (Not the incumbent), how are you going to stack the deck in your favor? What are you going to do for the client that the current agent has not?
My hope is that you will pick a few targets and concentrate on them. You can’t write them all and spreading yourself thin will not improve your chances. You may even want to take yourself “off the list” when the potential client calls if you do not have a clear signal that your chances (better relationship with the potential client, mishaps by the current agent that have opened the door a little wider, or changes in their operation that you can focus and capitalize on) have improved enough to have a better than average chance to write the account. Be realistic and make sure you are not wasting your time.
Work on your “playbook”. By this I mean gain knowledge in areas where you can go in as an expert or well informed agent. This could be areas such as Cyber Liability, Product Contamination or International exposures. These are three hot areas that have had significant activity over the past couple years and could potentially put your prospect out of business. Not that they are trick plays but they are growing areas of concern for many prospects and who better than you to come to the rescue and discuss these risks?
Check out your past results. Why didn’t you get the account in the past? Has that situation changed? If not, how can you “win” this year? If it is “all about price” then you may have a tough chance getting the account. The insured will usually give the incumbent agent last shot so good my not be good enough.
As I get older, I realize that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. The trick is to determine what I need to do differently in 2015 in order to increase my odds of writing new business. Some ideas of what to do differently:
- Build a specialty. Be it the type of account or a specialty in a particular line of coverage. With the activity increasing in the energy sector, I am looking to increase my knowledge and expertise in that area and hope to be viewed as an expert in that class of business.
- Learn more about a specific account. The better I can understand that account, the better I can service and meet the expectations of that account.
- Ask more questions up front to determine what my “odds” are and find out just how much an underdog I really am. This will affect my willingness to work an account that I have little or no chance of writing.
- Use my “team” better. Much like how a quarterback cannot win a game solely on his own efforts, neither can I. We have a strong team of seasoned veterans who can do a great job and I need to work hand in hand with them.
- Learn from my losses. If I cannot look at where I have failed, it will be tough to improve.
- Take a fresh outlook and be open to change. I may need to think outside the box if I am going to win more new business. Old habits die hard but change must happen in order to improve.
- Have fun doing what I love. Even after 29 years in this business it is still fun.
I hope that 2015 will be the year you break out of how you currently do things and have a spectacular year. Knowing you are the underdog, you will have to work smarter and more focused. Aim high and make it a great year. Happy New Year!