Author: dan

Many articles have been written about the Three R’s of Insurance; Retention, Rounding, and Referrals. In fact, it was the theme of one of MSAA’s first conferences at the Days Inn in Flatwoods. 

We all know that it is easier to keep your current customers than to get new ones. This is retention. These people know and trust you. Otherwise they probably would not do business with you. So, doesn’t it make sense to have frequent communications with them? This does not have to be in person or by phone. It could be via social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or even a Blog like the one you are reading now! This reinforces their decision to go with you as their agent and helps you to retain their account.

If you do choose to meet with them (an annual review, for example) or speak by telephone, it is an appropriate time to ask if there is anything else to insure, such as a vehicle with another carrier, a boat, ATV, etc. Do they own a business? In other words, it is time to round that account. We know that the more lines of business the agent writes, the less chance that the insured will leave you. This is the most efficient and cost-effective method of growing your book.

The final R is Referrals.  Getting referrals is the almost as efficient as rounding. Last week I was on a commercial lines sales meeting call with several agents. The question came up, “When do you ask for referrals?” The resounding answer was ALWAYS! As noted above, your customers know and trust you. Hopefully you have earned that trust. They should want to help their friends have the same great insurance products and service that you have given to them. Also, they should want to help you grow your business. By selling to referrals, you already have credibility with the prospect, since the referring person gifted that credibility to you.

Our Regional President, Tom Barrett, teaches in Dynamics of Selling that referrals are the surest way of bypassing gatekeepers and getting directly to the decision maker (actual buyer). He recommends doing some homework before you go for your appointment. Look up and have a list of other businesses in the area that are alike or similar. This allows you to ask if the insured knows any of the people on the list. In most cases the insured will know several, if not most, of the list. Then ask which they would recommend that you get in touch with. That leads to the key question, “Can I use your name as a referral?” If the answer is yes, the follow up may be “Will you call them for me to set the appointment?” This may sound pushy, but sometimes the answer will be yes. After all, the insured has entrusted you with their account. They should be willing to recommend you.

This works with personal lines customers as well, especially homeowners. Ask them for the names and phone numbers of their neighbors. Then send a letter with your business card to the neighbors and tell them that you insure their neighbor and would like them to keep your contact information in case something happens when your insured is away. Of course, follow-up and offer to quote their home and autos as well. 

As you can see, referrals offer an easier way to get new warm (or even hot) prospects for both your commercial and personal lines business. If you don’t ask for referrals, please try it! The worst they can say is no. When you get in the habit of always asking for referrals, you may find, as the folks on the sales call last week, that referral selling is the second most efficient way to grow your business, right behind rounding existing accounts.

A final note: I have one or two spots left for the June Business Insurance Advantage class. Graduates of this course who embrace with the process have significant growth of their commercial book. In fact, graduates’ business tracked by SIAA shows a 23% increase in business written, both commercial lines and personal lines.

We will see you next week at our Show Me the Money Meeting, on Thursday, April 12th!

Here are some items left over from past blogs and other random thoughts.

Greg Way from Liberty was in our office this week (bringing a big check for distribution at our meeting!) and told us that Liberty will be expanding their Worker’s Comp appetite by about 400 classes! The complete list of the desired classes will be out shortly. For instance, we just received a very competitive quote on a $40k WC premium for a building contractor who had an excellent emod.  Review your list of CL risks with Liberty to see how many have their comp with another carrier. Liberty pays a very competitive commission and is, of course, a Strategic Partner Carrier.

Over the last few days I have had conversations with several agents who indicated that their activity level was up and that they were very busy. This included such tasks as vehicle changes, as well as an uptick in writing new business. They were not complaining but were somewhat frustrated in their ability to solicit outside for new business while writing the business that came in the door as well as servicing their existing customers. This is a tough problem to have! But it is also a common one. Previously I wrote a blog about my visit to the Safeco Service Center. I am a firm believer that the use of a service center can help alleviate much of the day to day service activity, freeing up time to solicit new business, contacting existing clients for rounding or to ask for referrals, or to plan for and begin new target marketing campaigns. Service Centers sell time!

A few months ago, I wrote on the need to quote EPLI coverage for all your Commercial Lines customers. While many agents indicate they quote EPLI with all their commercial proposals, some have customers that have never had it offered to them. I have a letter (taken from LOLA) that offers existing customers this valuable coverage, and briefly explains why it is necessary. If you would like a copy of the letter, please check LOLA or email me and I will get a copy to you.

The April Business Insurance Advantage class is full, but spots are still available in the class beginning in June. BIA teaches the concept of target marketing to small commercial risks which our carriers want to write. You have many tools available to help you make the transition to writing more commercial lines business. Now is a great time to get involved in targeting small businesses, since almost all are aware of the need for EPLI coverage but few have it. You can use EPLI as the lead to get their attention and be the first to contact them about the what it is and the need for them to have this coverage. It is also a great time to contact your existing CL clients to offer an EPLI quote if they do not currently have it.

Matt Massiello, EVP and COO of SIAA, has recently emailed out a three-part article called “The Sky is Falling”. If you have not read it I can tell you it is a VERY good read and well worth your time. Please take a moment to read all parts!

Finally, if you have not RSVP’d for our April meeting, please do ASAP!

On a separate note, please remember to save the date:

MSAA Annual Conference- Wednesday, August 22nd 

Did you know that MSAA has an awesome market for your large construction accounts? Travelers is open for business not only on the small artisan contractors but also on the large construction risks.

I recently sat down with Bill Anderson, Account Executive-Officer for Construction from Travelers’ Charleston office. During our conversation Bill laid out the submission guidelines, construction specialization and appetite, specialty coverages available, and some of the types of large contractors that Travelers had recently written, including General, Utility, Electrical, Plumbing/HVAC and Bridge/Heavy Highway contractors.

Many agents are intimidated by large accounts and I admit that they can be a little complicated. But they also can be very rewarding, both from the high compensation and the chance to round the account further by writing any sub-contractors they may use. As for complication, MSAA members have an advantage: you have the resource of MSAA staff to help you through, even to the point of having someone go with you to visit the account. 

The submission guidelines are fairly simple.  They include a minimum of $750,000 GL payroll (on trade contractors under $750K submit to Select), 5-year updated company generated loss runs, copies of any Executed Subcontract agreements, a current financial statement, a list of any work in progress, and, of course, a completed Acord application.  

The specialization and appetite are broad and offer total package pricing. They are very aggressive on the Worker’s Compensation line so long as it is part of the package. The also have great risk control: onsite, online, and on demand. They also have dedicated GL claim professionals to help your clients develop resolution strategies to best manage costs. SIC codes include 1500, 1600, and 1700. They do not write roofers or residential contractors. Among the specialty coverages offered are Construction Surety, Professional Liability, Environmental Liability, and Cyber Risk. Don’t forget to add EPLI!

In other news, MSAA continues to have 2017 Profit Sharing, Growth Bonuses, PMSF, and other contingency checks roll in, making 2017 our best year yet! Make plans now to attend the Show Me The Money Meeting, Thursday April 12th, to get your share of the treasure!

On a separate note, please remember to save the date:

MSAA Annual Conference- Wednesday, August 22nd 

Did you know that MSAA has an excellent market for your local non-profit organizations that pays 15% commission? Chuck Smith, Sales Director for Guide One, was in our office going over the opportunities we at MSAA have with them. In addition to their super inclusive church policies, Guide One has a comprehensive program for non-profit entities.

Why solicit non-profits? Several reasons come to mind. First, local non-profits are, by definition, based in your community. They are a good place to get to know leaders within your community. The people associated with non-profits are usually committed to their group and are more likely to do business with you on other things if you are also helping their “baby”. By insuring your local non-profit organization, you as an agent are demonstrating your commitment and involvement within your local area.

Second, non-profits are a class of business that many agents ignore, many times because they perceive them to be tough to write or because they do not have a market that likes to write them. (Most carriers do not write them or do so on a limited basis.) But this works in the agent’s favor as once written, most of these accounts will stay on the books with high retention.

Third, writing non-profit business can be a substantial account, not only from the commissions on the account, which many times can have property and auto risks, as well as the GL and D and O exposures needed to be covered. Add to this the cross-sell opportunities and you can see that writing your local non-profit can be very lucrative.

I am not saying the non-profit business is easy to write, but it typically has a specialty application which can be filled out with the insureds. This alleviates some of the information gathering process. Also, you, as a member of MSAA, have a resource in Cindy and Jeff to help you with the application process. If you would like further information on how to start, please contact Cindy or Jeff. Look out for a separate email coming soon with all the classes of non-profits that Guide One likes to write.

On a separate note, please remember to save the dates:

Show Me the Money Meeting – Thursday, APRIL 12th

MSAA Annual Conference- Wednesday, August 22nd  

It is hard to believe that we are already at the end of January. We have already survived several large snow events, but so far seem to be weathering the winter well. I hope that you are 1/12 of the way to your annual goals. If not, there is still time to catch up!

We have passed a few milestones this month. First, Jeffrey McCracken just completed the Business Insurance Advantage course, and is busy with his first target marketing campaigns soliciting new small commercial business. BIA has been revamped and streamlined! If you would like to participate or would like further information about BIA, please contact me.

Dove Pic Cropped

Mike, Elaine and Josh Dove accepting their
“50 Years of Insurance Excellence with Travelers”
plaque from Jarrad West.
Dove Insurance Agency is located in Christiansburg, VA

Second, Dove Insurance Agency in Christiansburg, VA celebrated their 50th Year representing Travelers. MSAA sends out kudos to Mike, Elaine, and Josh. Congratulations! Keep up the good work!

Speaking of Travelers, did you know that Travelers is offering MSAA a bonus on new business placed in 2018? This local new business bonus can be up to 3.5%. We also have an extra local bonus the first quarter on Select business. This is in addition to our SIAA national PMSF and other national bonuses.

Liberty also has a growth bonuses in place for us. In addition to our local new business bonus of 2%, SIAA has negotiated a new business incentive program that runs from January 1st through June 30th and will pay between 1% and 5%!

Now is a good time to review all your commercial lines accounts to be sure that they either have or have been offered EPLI coverage. This is a coverage that I am sure will be, as one underwriter told me today, the carpal tunnel coverage of the year. It is a hot topic now and will continue to be for several years to come. It is the perfect opportunity to reach out to your commercial lines clients that carry this coverage to review limits; and to those that don’t have it, to explain the importance of it in today’s litigious society.

This is a relatively inexpensive coverage which can be easily added for a reasonable charge. The rates are based on the number of employees (full and part time) at all locations insured. For example, limits on the Liberty BOP start as low as $10,000 which is $18 annually and can go to $1M for an annual charge of only $498 annually. This coverage is also available as an option on stand-alone GL and package policies at limits that range from $100,000/$100,000 which is $71 annually to $1M/$1M which is $178 annually.

Most carriers have similar availability and pricing so make sure you offer this vital coverage to all your commercial lines risks.

Spring is right around the corner…welcome to February!

Be sure your calendars are marked for our 2018 meeting dates!

Thursday, April 12th, – $how me the Money Meeting      

Wednesday, August 22nd – MSAA Annual Conference

First, MSAA congratulates everyone for a stellar 2017. We achieved growth with most of our carriers, as well as great profitability. This translates into a LOT of of excess compensation including PMSF, profit sharing, and growth bonuses. This may be our best year ever! Make plans now to attend the Show Me the Money Meeting, to be held Thursday, April 12th, at the Charleston Marriott. MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

Kristin and the team have just completed the MSAA Business Plan for 2018. While any time can be good for goal planning, the beginning of the year is always best, since it allows you to plan monthly goals toward your annual goal, and gives you benchmarks to measure your progress. How much money do you want to earn during 2018? What amount of renewal business will you retain? How much new business will you need to write in order to achieve your goals? We have worksheets available to help you do the math.

You also want to consider putting educational goals in your plan; for sales training, insurance designations, continuing education, or general learning about insurance and lines of business you would like to start writing.

Have you noticed that the topic of misconduct in the workplace is becoming a hot topic in the news? This is the reason that most large companies carry EPLI in their package of policies. Unless you have made it your agency’s policy to always offer EPLI and to document when it is refused, now is the time to review the coverage you have on all the commercial lines policies you write. Moving forward, always quote it on commercial risks and make them sign off that you have offered this valuable coverage and they refuse it. Otherwise, you may find that they do have coverage, from your E and O policy!

The topic of cyber breach also continues to be in the news. Just this week. FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the Cyber Conference outlying what the FBI is doing to combat the problem. You can help your clients by having a Cyber Policy for your agency. It helps you to put your clients whole in the event of a breach of your computers. Also, like EPLI, this is a policy that needs to offered to any commercial risk that takes credit cards or stores sensitive information. They are depending on you, their trusted agent, to help and protect them.

Again, welcome to 2018! We hope you have a wonderful year and look forward to seeing everyone Thursday, April 12th, for the Show Me The Money Meeting!

MSAA 2017 Year in Review

As we approach the end of 2017, let’s take a moment to look at some of the many accomplishments achieved during the year.

First, 2017 was a GOOD YEAR for MSAA, SIAA, and our members. In fact, in terms of profit sharing, growth bonuses, and PMSF from SIAA, 2017 is shaping up to be our best year ever!

We have achieved growth with almost all our strategic partner carriers, and excellent growth with carriers such as Travelers, Liberty, Hartford Commercial, and State Auto. Congratulations!

In a year where the carriers’ results were hit by several hurricanes, massive wildfires, and floods, MSAA weathered (pun intended) the year with no major CAT losses. This resulted in us being profitable across the board with all the carriers we represent (as of November results). And we are locked in with many carriers – Including Safeco at 45%. Congratulations again!

This year brought a major platform change to the SIAA NetWeb system. We were able to navigate these changes relatively seamlessly, with little or no disruption in our day to day operations.

The growth of our commercial book warranted adding another person to help place our ever-growing amount of submissions to CL Access Plus. Thus, we welcome Jeff Runyan as our Director of Access Plus. Jeff brings over 15 years of both marketing and production experience to our team, making Jeff & Cindy now our dynamic duo team in MSAA CL Access Plus.

Also, while we hated losing Whitney and wish her the best at her new job, we are very happy to have Amiee Facemyer come on board with us as our new Personal Lines Coordinator. She brings 18 years of experience to us and we know that our members will enjoy working with her. If you have not already done so, please welcome Jeff and Amiee to the MSAA family!
MSAA continued to offer training on all lines of business, averaging over 10 webinars per month along with other training opportunities from the carriers and within SIAA’s Training and Learning Center. Thank you, Kristin for coordinating the training!

Speaking of the TLC keep in mind that it continues to grow as SIAA adds more and more courses. A reminder: TLC is now available to you as a member for no cost. Free is a good price! This includes all the Continuing Education Credits available in the TLC where you only have to pay the filing fee.

Also at the national level, SIAA has finalized our 2018 PMSF agreements, so members will continue to receive quarterly payments from our Strategic Partnership Carriers. SIAA is now well over $6 Billion in aggregated premium!

SIAA’s exclusive training program Business Insurance Advantage also has been revamped. The next class beginning in January will be eight weeks, with monthly follow-up calls. BIA students have enjoyed an approximate 23% increase in small commercial business compared with prior years. BIA also generates cross sales to other lines, including personal lines and life.

So, to sum up, 2017 was a very good year and we look forward to sharing its rewards with you this spring!

We at MSAA wish to you, our members, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year!

Dan, Mary, Kristin, Jason, Jeff, Cindy, and Amiee

What is BIA?

Business Insurance Advantage is an eight-week educational course developed by SIAA and available exclusively to SIAA members. The course focuses on targeting and writing small commercial business that your carriers want to write. This is done through a series of one-hour lessons that are accessed on-line and weekly telephone calls with the BIA administrator, Jamie DeStefano, who helps students stay focused and on track. The program identifies what local businesses to target and how to market to them, as well as cross-selling and rounding techniques.

Why take BIA?

As we have recently learned, the world of insurance is going through some dramatic changes, especially with regards to Personal Lines. This includes volatility in premiums, and changes in commission schedules. Meanwhile, the world of commercial has remained relatively stable, with our carriers wanting to grow in commercial lines, especially in small commercial. The numbers show that while SIAA is up 16% for small commercial with our partner carriers, BIA members are up 27%, or 11 points higher. BIA members are up 22% on commercial commissions!

How Much Time Does BIA Take?

BIA is not an intensive product training course. Participants must invest 5 hours a week for training and a half hour a week for the telephone call. Additionally, some advance work is required. Continuing to conduct marketing campaigns post-training is the key to long-term success. Be aware that success does not happen overnight. BIA members build data on ex-dates, call backs, and early discussions with prospects. Commercial prospecting takes time!

When Can One Take BIA?

Courses start each quarter. The next one starts at the beginning of January. MSAA has three spots left for the January course at this time.

How Can One Get More Information on BIA?

Please contact Dan Kerns to set up a short webinar with head of BIA, Steve Tombarelli from SIAA. You can email Dan at or call him at 304-925-0255 X 1006.

Recently we attended the SIAA National meeting in Boston. At these meetings we always learn about new markets and strategic partners as well as updates on our strategic partners. We also learn about trends in the insurance industry, and how we can best position SIAA members to take advantage of the trends or to be ahead of them.

First, let me congratulate all of our members for being part of a 7.1 BILLION Dollar enterprise! That’s right, SIAA has now eclipsed the $7 Billion (with a B) mark. More importantly, we now have over $3.4 Billion with our Strategic Partnership Carriers, resulting from 713 million GROWTH! That comes from 15.1% growth rate with our SPCs over the last 5 years.

While we do not have the Year over Year numbers in on growth with our SPC’s, we are having an awesome year, with good growth with most of our carriers. Most importantly, we have solid Loss Ratios, which allows us to lock-in for profit sharing. We have already locked in our profit agreements with several carriers, including SAFECO, Liberty, Travelers, Encompass, and Grange. Others will follow. Our local loss ratio with SAFECO is at 45%. To maximize your 2017 profit sharing compensation, remember to continue to place quality business with Safeco and the other SPCs.

One issue which we have spoken about before has returned; the threat to our agencies posed by cyber attacks and the liability it brings to both our agencies and our customers. I have sent further information out about this in a separate blog. Please check the RPS website for further information or contact us a MSAA for more information.

UPDATE: SIAA has a scheduled webinar with RPS that addresses the scope of the problem and the coverages available in the policy. PLEASE attend this webinar this FRIDAY, November 17th at 11:00 am. If you do not have the link please contact us. Also, please remain on the webinar at the end for helpful hints on how to best navigate the RPS website for quoting and learning modules.

While at the SIAA conference we spent some time looking at the Training and Learning Center and the addition of new courses in the TLC, as well as the enhancement and updating of existing courses. If you have not been into the TLC recently, please log in and have a look. The TLC WILL BE UP even when Netweb is shut down for 3 weeks. Remember, you can start a course and stop it, and then pick up where you stopped later. It is a wonderful way to grow your insurance knowledge. Just twelve minutes a day equals a full hour of learning at the end of a five-day work week.

While at the State Auto breakout one of the presenters was Clinton Houck, their Senior Agency Marketing Specialist. He had some interesting tips. One I will now share is this: Call your five best customers and ask them to give you a great review in Google (they must have a Gmail account to do this, but Gmail accounts are free and easy to obtain). This will move your agency up in hierarchy of area agency listings in Google. We are scheduling a webinar with Clinton for more hints to help your agency grow through use of technology. Stay tuned for an email invite that is coming out shortly to you.

One issue which we have spoken about before has returned; the threat to our agencies posed by cyber attacks and the liability it brings to both our agencies, and the threat to our customers. The RPS website shares some very scary data about this threat. According to a survey conducted by Hartford Steam Boiler, 53% of firms experienced some sort of cyber attack in the past year. Of those hacked, 72% spent over $5,000 to investigate, restore, or replace software or hardware. 7% spent more than a quarter of a million dollars! As you can see, this is a large-scale problem with potential large-scale penalties.

According to reports, New York is enacting new regulations that make it the responsibility of the agent/broker to secure coverage to protect their clients in the event of a data breach. Couple this with the fact that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has asked for the regulating language to adopt similar legislation in the other states and one can readily see where this action will take us. There is at least one major carrier that already requires this protection to maintain a contract with them.

While writing this I contacted the WV Insurance for guidance on what we can expect. Commissioner McVey responded that “Although there are no current laws regarding the requirement to have Cyber coverages we do review the risk associated with those exposures and will be introducing this law at some point to our Legislature. It would include an assessment on how they would handle a breach (insurance, self-insurance deposits, etc.)…I think it is a huge risk for all of us.” CLICK HERE to see the press release from the NAIC.

If you do not have a cyber liability policy in place already, it is important to get one and will soon be mandatory. Please check the RPS website for further information or contact us a MSAA for more information. Quotes for VERY broad coverage are $400 for most agencies.