Agency Performance Partners


Insurance Sales & Underwriting: How to Sell In a Hard Market

Posted on February 19, 2024 by Kelly Donahue Piro


Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, burnt out? Is your pipeline shrinking instead of growing? Are your closing and remarketing hit ratios not as healthy as you would like? 

You aren’t alone and in the right place. This market is challenging and learning how to adapt our approach is going to be key in approaching insurance sales and underwriting in this market. 

Learning how to prioritize our time and efforts in the right places and with the right customers to maximize our effectiveness is going to be critical. Customers need agents now more than ever to help guide them through this market. 

Many times I go to agencies and they believe the insurance buyer has one way of doing business, their way!  This may be true for your existing book of business but if you are reading this blog you are probably more interested in growing your book rather than just complacently servicing your existing book. 

The fact is that when it comes to insurance sales and underwriting the landscape has changed and our customer profiles are morphing. To be the most successful we need to learn how to meet our customers where they are. 

We have spent many years taking directives from our customers and this false sense of what “good customer service” means. 

Insurance agents need to elevate their professional presence and start training our customers what a great insurance partnership with their agent looks like and it’s not: 

  • Price shopping
  • Dropping everything to handle the next request
  • Being afraid to have difficult conversations

So then what are the strategies for success in a hard market?

When it comes to a hard market we have to get good at identifying the best use of our time. This not only helps you to manage your time efficiently and effectively but it also honors your customer’s time! 

  • Enhancing underwriting practices to identify customers who may be better served elsewhere will allow you to have more meaningful communication with your customers. 

Although sometimes these conversations may be difficult, clients prefer honest and transparent communication. Don’t waste your time, your client’s time, or your carrier’s time on risks that don’t fit your current markets. 

Now is the time to get skilled at front-line underwriting risks to identify potential rejection reasons. The last thing an agent should do is put a client at risk by trying to write a policy that’s not a great fit for your agency, your markets, and in the best interest of your client just to put a tally mark on the sales board. 

Clients will remember how you made them feel during the insurance sales and underwriting process and when we can be upfront and honest we build a level of trust that will create a long-term relationship that can be nurtured. It’s not a no forever it’s just a no for now. We need to get comfortable with saying no when it’s the right thing to do for the client. 

  • Practicing effective sales techniques that allow you to manage your time and enhance your customer experience. Streamlining the underwriting process and leveraging technology without compromising accuracy. 

This may be difficult for some insurance buyers but you can help guide them in the process. Practice first-call resolution wherever possible. When not possible, set appointments to help manage expectations and build a plan. 

Walk customers through any technology you will be asking them to use so they feel empowered and less like a fish out of water. Create a strong sense of urgency to requests by setting and keeping commitments to a timeline. This allows everyone to be invested in the process and engaged clients are much more likely to close!  

  • Building strong relationships with clients will sustain your organization through difficult times. This is not only important during this hard market but in any market. As hard as we strive to meet the mark with our clients sometimes we fumble and don’t or can’t. 

Relationships allow us to build trust and you may wonder why is that important: 

  • Trust encourages open and honest communication which allows your agency to solve challenges before a customer thinks about moving their insurance elsewhere.  
  • Trust creates a sense of security in our clients which allows them to feel comfort in the fact that your agency has their back!  
  • Trust is the foundation of mutual respect where your client becomes responsive to your requests and sees the value in you, your agency, and their insurance portfolio. 
  • When clients trust you they see your agency as reliable and are more likely to refer you to other clients who will also value your professionalism. 

Education and training of agency staff and clients will assist your agency in being able to execute these strategies. 

  • Foster an environment where ongoing professional development is encouraged and supported. This will allow agency personnel to feel like they are being invested in. It also creates a collaborative and synergetic team where new ideas are celebrated and shared rather than the “that’s the way we have always done it”. It allows your agency to stay on the cutting edge of industry trends, and technology and helps to attract great talent to your agency. 
  • Staying informed about industry trends is important not only for teams but also for clients. Build an environment where customer education and feedback are valued and not seen as a burden. The more we can pour into spending time educating our customers the more meaningful our time with them can become. If we can assist our clients with understanding how to adopt new technology, what is going on with the industry, and how our professional advice is valuable to them the more time we can spend showing them the value of our true role is….helping them to protect the things that they have worked so hard to build! 


We need to get great at optimizing our efforts spending time on the right things and saying no to things that aren’t in the best interest of the agency or the client. It’s so important in our industry not only to be a lifelong learner but also to have a passion for teaching others. 

Don’t be afraid to: 

  • Embrace difficult conversations as this is where you build the most value and trust with clients that will create long-lasting relationships. 
  • Enthusiastically try new things! Not everything will be a success but many times you will surprise yourself with your abilities and you will be able to encourage others to join you in your journey. 

Our industry may never be what it once was but what is? We are all in this together and the only thing we can control is our attitude each day so what’s your choice? Complacency or Enthusiasm 

Check out the blog associated with this video: Hard Insurance Market: How Your Agency Can Survive & Thrive

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