You’re sitting in a lounge chair at your town’s public pool and suddenly see your daughter running toward you with a hand on her ear and tears streaming down her face. Alarmed, you ask what happened. She says some boys who were throwing a tennis ball hit her ear with the ball while she was walking by.
When you take her to the family doctor, you are told that the impact of the tennis ball ruptured your daughter’s eardrum. What do you do now? Before you have a chance to ask, the doctor refers you to a physician in a neighboring state who specializes in ear injuries and has performed eardrum surgery many times before.
You follow the advice and discover your doctor was right; the specialist knew exactly what he was doing and fixed your daughter’s eardrum better than any general practitioner could have.
What made the specialist successful? Wouldn’t the fact that he specializes reduce the number of patients he gets, and consequently reduce his income?
You might think so, but the opposite is true. Even though family physicians have the largest population of potential patients, they are among the lowest paid doctors. Specialists tend to make significantly more despite having far fewer potential patients. In reality, a specialist can do most, if not all, of what a family doctor does, yet a specialist has good reasons to stick to his or her area of expertise:
- Specialists have a reputation of being good at their specialty.
- The excellent reputation generates referrals and keeps them busy.
- When they treat the same thing over and over, they become extremely skilled in their area of expertise, which strengthens their confidence and further builds their reputation.
- If they did something outside of their specialty, their reputation would be on the line.
- It would take them longer to treat something else because they would need to refresh their knowledge of the general condition they would be treating.
The reasons to specialize in commercial insurance are the same!
You can establish a reputation and referrals as being an expert in the community. As a result, you will actually have more prospects.
If you are active in an industry association, you can become the first person that comes to mind when people think about insurance in their industry. Even if you don’t, your customers are sure to mention you when talking with other people in their industry.
You can get comfortable with coverage which will help you be more confident in your presentations.
You will be a much more effective marketer. You will not only speak the language of your prospects during the sales presentation, but you’ll speak it when you are field underwriting. Over time, you’ll find that the people calling in should be calling because they know you are “the guy” (or gal) to help.
You will be able to quote prospects more quickly. You will not get bogged down trying to find carriers with the right appetite or coverage.
The first pitfall in commercial sales is wanting to write everything whether or not your carriers have an appetite for it. Just like personal lines insurance, the hardest thing to do is get in front of a prospect. So when someone calls in asking you to quote them – well, it feels like free money!
Naturally, you will want to write that business, but it leads you into being a jack of all trades and a master of none. Every class has coverage and underwriting nuances along with different needs.
If you give in to the desire to write it all, you’ll spend more time learning about how to cover a business than you will growing yours. In the time you could have written 5 home/auto accounts, you write one $5,000 commercial account instead (which may be more service intense, and will probably want to be shopped more often).
If you are an agent with a well-run agency, trying to write every commercial account that comes in your door would be like paying with cash at this fine establishment:
Instead, specialize in several classes of business. That way you can become an expert. You will know which carriers want to write certain accounts and which coverage pitfalls pertain to the account.
Better yet, you will know what questions to ask so that you don’t spend hours quoting only to discover that an incidental part of their business makes them ineligible.
If I had the commission for every time I thought I had a great account until the very end where I learned about an ineligible exposure, I would not be writing this article!
As a commercial specialist, you will be able to quote that $5,000 account in the same time it would have taken you to write one home auto account. Quickly and adeptly moving that commercial prospect through your system without straying from your growth course—that’s where the money is!
You WILL be tempted to quote anyone who calls in.
We’ve seen it time and again. Agents understand the above concepts. They know that specialization is the path to success, and they commit to it. Random businesses that ask you for a quote are like the gum on the street.
Leave it there. Although it feels like free business, commercial agents know that’s not the case.
Agents understand and agree with that principle. But when you’re a new agent, and someone calls in for a quote, you want to make money by writing everyone you can. And suddenly, that call-in business seems worth working on. When this happens, you’re following in Buddy’s foot steps:
Does that make you cringe a little bit?
Gum on the street is not free candy, and prospects that you stumble into rarely are quality leads. You don’t want either of them.
The time to decide you want to be a commercial agent is BEFORE you have a prospect.
With few exceptions, agents don’t accidentally specialize. It takes a deliberate decision and discipline. Agents need to choose business types they are comfortable with and have carrier appetites for. Then, just as with personal lines, they’ll need a marketing plan.
Specializing in commercial insurance isn’t easy. But the benefits are worth it, and Firefly can give you the carriers and support you need to succeed.