Success or failure on paper

By | February 23, 2012

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Success or failure on paper

By: David Connolly iQ Consulting


  • They are the primary form of communication with our underwriters.
  • They have a substantial impact on our reputation.
  • They are often the difference between winning and losing business.
  • They are responsible for E & O, cancellations, non renewals and tardy proposals.

The They I’m referring to are submissions.

Considering their importance, one would think there would be classes dedicated to instructing agents on developing great submissions. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one. If any readers know of one, please share. The goal of this segment is to shorten your learning curve by going to school on someone who was taught by underwriters exactly what determines a superior submission, and why mastering this skill is critical to your success.

Let’s cover the why’s first.

Submissions are the primary form of communication with your underwriter, and they can make or break your career. Underwriters toe a fine line between writing business and protecting their company. They have a huge disadvantage, because they rarely meet your clients, or see the operations they underwrite.

Insurance companies invest millions in loss control to “look over our shoulder” and “trust but verify.” I started my career in loss control, so I have intimate knowledge of what underwriters want. As a producer, this knowledge gave me a huge advantage. It’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your underwriter and imagine what it would be like to assume huge risk sight unseen. If you want to create strong trust relationships with people who influence your success, ask them to tell you what a perfect submission looks like, and then give it to them every time.

Quality submissions are a critical factor by which you are judged in this industry. You are judged by your work. In the eyes of your underwriter, your work is your submission. Submissions are a reflection of you, and your professionalism. They will affect your reputation. The most frustrating issue an underwriter deals with is incomplete submissions. It stops them dead in their tracks and they have to suspend files, and baby sit agents chasing after us for information. Underwriters will rightly, or wrongly assume that this is how you operate. Trust issues result in declinations, higher rates, exclusions, and conservative coverage. Ultimately, this will negatively impact your reputation and your ability to get what you need to win business.

Experienced pro’s understand the best way get submissions to rise to the top of the stack is to give underwriters applications they can single hand all the way through the rating process. Underwriters by their very nature, and their jobs are detail oriented animals who operate off of check lists. They will respect your attention to detail, your professionalism, and appreciate your respect for their time. They will reward you with their best forms, rates, coverage and terms. In addition, when you need that last minute quote to retain or write that important account, you will have built a foundation of trust and a significant bank account of good will on which to withdraw favors. Also, when they see your next submission, they’ll rush to work on it.

Winning or losing business is predicated upon perceived value. Value is universally viewed as a combination of price, product /service, and relationship. Very few people buy anything important on price alone. Most people buy value, and like to feel they are getting a good deal. Negotiating for great rates, terms and coverage depends entirely on your ability to remove questions, doubt and fear from the mind of your underwriter. Underwriters must feel comfortable applying maximum credits, and delivering the best they have to offer. This will inevitably position you to win more business from agents who do an average job on submissions.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from insurance buyers and agents alike is rushed, tardy or last minute quotes. This creates a great deal of angst and ill will between underwriters, agents and clients. Unfortunately, as agents, we often create this issue through incomplete submissions, which stall the underwriting process. Ask any underwriter how long it takes to rate a multi line, middle market P & C account if the submission is great. They will tell you 1 day, or hours if you really need it … unless it’s mid December.

To get proposals when you want them, give your underwriters everything they need up front along with a deadline and follow up. Also, garbage in – garbage out. Underwriters can only properly cover and rate what they get off our applications. They’re human, and make mistakes, but our job is to ensure accuracy throughout the submission and policy issuance process. I have clients with departments dedicated to policy audits to ensure that polices issued mirror submissions. This is why narrative reports are so crucial to a solid application. Often times a narrative description will clue the underwriter to operations, and exposures not covered or properly classified in the operations section of accord apps.

So what constitutes a perfect submission? Please ask your underwriters, but during 20 years of experience in loss control and production, this is what my underwriters have told me what they want, and what would get me, and my clients, preferential treatment.

Perfect Submission

Detailed Narrative – MGT Bio’s – Org structure – Company history – Web Site info, Product lines & descriptions, Territory of operation -Brochures – Diagrams Current Financials -Current Loss runs 3-5 years – Previous loss control reports
Previous large losses – Actions plans to fix exposures – Large Contracts – Current Policy Dec sheets -All apps & supplemental apps – Coverage checklists – Exp Mod Worksheets
Employee handbook – Safety policy – HR policy – Current Carrier/Agent / Premiums

Lot’s of photo’s – Agent of record letter – Conversations

I know it’s a lot, and so do your underwriters, but this is what a “perfect submission” looks like, and one that will get you preferred pricing.

Disclaimer: Obviously this approach applies to typical P & C business and doesn’t anticipate every wrinkle, exposure, or class of business. Underwriters are individuals and may have unique requests. The fishnet is asking them, and giving them what they want.

Join me every month for the PIA ASAP webinar series. February 19th “Pre call preparation”


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About David Connolly

David Connolly is the founder of iQ Consulting, and is a recognized industry leader in helping agencies and carriers accelerate and perpetuate growth and retention. Their robust agency services platform provides professional guidance in almost every area critical to the success of your company. iQ provides Agency Consulting and Leadership Coaching services as well as Producer Development through training, In field Coaching and Reinforcement Resources. "Our approach to consulting and coaching is built from decades of personal experience in Production, Sales Management, and Agency leadership" David has coached thousands of Insurance sales and marketing professionals in the US and Canada. David delivers performance based seminars, keynotes, and workshops throughout North America, including David delivers the Agent Sales Acceleration webinar series for the PIA. Register at For more information about iQ Performance Consulting visit or contact David directly at 612-414-5618 More from David Connolly

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