As a group, insurance underwriters can be characterized as “literal” thinkers. That defining characteristic makes them good at what they do, but it can also seriously limit their success.
Most underwriters are focused on risk assessment and looking for safe opportunities that carry very little risk. They are charged with supporting profitable business and most tend to rely heavily on traditional forms of data to determine risk. All too often, case analysis is distilled to the following default reasoning: “The numbers are what they are.”
The best underwriters, however, understand that the benefits of taking a risk are not outweighed by the risk of failure. Further, they recognize the importance of integrating non-traditional – or “soft” – information into the mix. Successful underwriters recognize that a sales-oriented mindset is required if they are to fulfill their roles as underwriters and support their organization’s sales goals. Adopting a sales-oriented mindset and integrating the following practices will both increase sales and solidify your organization’s reputation for providing exceptional service.
Do Your Homework
Obviously the goal is to quote profitable business, but all too often good cases are improperly quoted (or overlooked entirely) for lack of a comprehensive understanding of the case. Information is king. The more information you can provide, the better prepared the sales rep will be to make the case to support your quote. The information might include a comparison of plan designs and rates as well as a comprehensive review of experience history, “lives” growth and changes in management. Each of the aforementioned categories represents an opportunity for non-traditional analysis and creative problem-solving. If you are serious about increasing sales, you must go beyond just the numbers.
Underwriters who conduct their own research are at a distinct advantage. Those who view researching the case as their personal responsibility are much more likely to capture information that will not be uncovered by underwriters who simply rely on the information that is presented to them. This is particularly important as it pertains to uncovering the factors driving the quote.
A thorough underwriter may learn, for example, that while cost was represented as a primary reason behind a piece of business going out to quote, it may be less important to match or reduce the rate than it is to include a non-standard plan provision.
Successful underwriters also recognize that relying exclusively on electronic information and communication is a mistake. Electronic information and communication is often “toneless.” It is typically very one-dimensional and fails to reveal the shading of a case. Pick up the phone! If information is not provided, ask for it. If it’s not given, get it.
Strive to Be Consultative
There are myriad reasons a case goes out to bid and the primary reason is not always obvious. A good underwriter will work to uncover this information. Is the case coming to market because the policyholder’s new HR manager is eager to establish a reputation as a cost-conscious team member? Has the policyholder experienced problems with the claims shop? Or perhaps it’s a case of a loyal sales rep simply needing “a win.” With every quoting opportunity, a story is being told. Listen to the nuances of the story. Embrace opportunities to speak with sales reps and brokers and be open to new information.
It is not uncommon for quote scripts to lack specific plan design and administration information. Some digging may reveal, for example, that the agent is not the broker of record. A savvy underwriter will see this as a hint that the policyholder is not necessarily unhappy, but the broker is working to make inroads with the policyholder. How the underwriter chooses to leverage this information will depend upon the other facts revealed in the research process, but the underwriter has uncovered a key piece of information and is now better positioned to assume the role of informed strategic partner.
The most successful underwriter-sales rep relationships can be described as a partnership. Never be afraid to ask, “What will it take to sell this business?” Whether working within a long-standing relationship or quoting with a sales rep for the first time, establish yourself as a motivated partner.