Agent to Agent: Shark Proof

Part one of three

David Connolly Photo - 200x250px.jpgBy David Connolly
Founder, iQ Consulting

Shark Proof. That’s an interesting name for an article on insurance sales, right? It’s designed to get your attention because you need to read this article. A "shark" is what I call the kind of producer you don’t want anywhere near your clients. It’s actually a huge compliment. It describes a producer who is a consummate hunter, and a true production machine. Sharks are experienced pros, who know the business and are experts at creating doubt, pain and buyer's remorse on the part of your clients. They are also experts at breaking relationships.

Fortunately, I work with many sharks and have the opportunity to watch them work. In this article, I’m going to share with you the best defense for their offense. Some are upset with me for writing this article, but I’ve told them not to worry, because the average agent won’t make the changes needed to protect their best clients.

The interesting piece about sharks is that most are very professional as they tear apart your policy, question the quality of service you provide and generally wreak havoc with your clients creating dissatisfaction and a desire to change. Don’t blame them, they just provide the ammo; your clients come to their own conclusions and pull the trigger. I know my vocabulary is a bit severe, but so will be your response if you lose one of your best clients to a shark. And let me emphasize “Best Clients” because sharks don’t toy around with small accounts, and if they find a weakness in your game, they’ll find others you insure, and there will be a feeding frenzy.

I witnessed one producer take a $130,000 account ($130,000 in revenue) away from his competitor, and then got into 3 more of his accounts and took over $300,000 in revenue from that same producer, in one year. Aggressive? Yes. Cruel? Maybe. Sad? Yes, for the loser. Unprofessional? Absolutely not! I blame the losing producer for not over serving his best clients and leaving them unprotected. I also blame the losing agent for having such a significant hole in his game that allowed the competition to run over him. Last comment and then we’ll get into shark proofing. The sad part is that the losing producer’s own clients introduced the competitor to his other clients.

Let me give you the 3 I’s of shark proofing that will create a near impregnable barrier against the sharks and any other lessor competitors.

Insulation - Investment – Influence

In this article we will address Insulation. Insulation comes in several forms, but lets take the most obvious. First, every single large account must be insulated from the competition by surrounding them with talented staff and or colleagues. You must take a pro-active approach to over serve your best clients by introducing them to people who are YOUR partners and can bring value to them.

Always cross sell and account round to push the unfriendly competition out of your accounts. There are always risks associated when bringing other agents and professionals into your accounts, but I’d much rather have the demon I know and can control in my account vs. the one I don’t.

Leverage insurance company personnel and outside vendors to provide valuable service and take credit for it. Being a conduit for introductions to resources makes you very valuable to your clients.

Always use service menus, service timelines and stewardship reports to give your best clients choices, understanding and control over their insurance program. People hate insurance because they don’t understand it and can’t control it. Their only alternative is to shop it to drive down price. Always conduct a stewardship review quarterly or at least annually with larger accounts to gauge their satisfaction and fix problems before they fester. Review all that you have delivered to your client during that period, include things like claims reviews, market analysis, risk management services, safety & loss control and every transaction including policy changes, certificates, additions and deletions, and endorsements. Print it out, stack it up and share it with clients so they know everything you are doing for them. If you don’t, it’s out of sight, out of mind when the shark comes knocking at their door.

Introduce your clients to your clients. Foster business relationships across your book of business and create revenue for your clients. The toughest objection any shark will encounter is a prospect that says, “My agent has brought me a ton of business through his network and I won’t jeopardize that relationship.” Open your book of business to your best clients and ask them who they would like to be introduced to. One or two introductions that result in a new business relationship will be a gesture they will never forget.

Last is transparency. Disclose your commission to your client so they know what they are paying you. If you think the commissions are too high and you couldn’t justify them to your client, you are probably right and should negotiate a fee. I’ve seen many accounts get upset when they found out how much commission they were paying their agent and move to a shark that offered them a reasonable fee. As account sizes grow past $250,000 in premium, it gets harder to justify 12-15% commissions if you are not providing a significant suite of services.

Next: Investment

David Connolly is the founder of iQ Consulting. They work with the top 100 agencies and brokers in the US and Canada and have trained thousands of insurance professionals.

Want to learn more about shark proofing your best clients from hungry predators? Join PIA and iQ Consulting for our May 20th webinar on this topic. This webinar is presented as part of the PIA Agent Success Acceleration Program. PIA and iQ Consulting have created this sales-focused, e-learning program for insurance professionals in CO, DE, IL, MA, PA, RI, SD and WV.

To learn more about the PIA Agent Success Acceleration Program and to register for the next webinar, please visit

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