10 Tips for Buying Business Insurance


Buying insurance can be a frustrating process for business owners. Providing all the information to the insurer can be time-consuming, and if the policy is then declined it can be very disheartening, and the whole process can seem like a waste of valuable time and resources. But for all the difficulties, you need insurance, and doing it right is worth the effort.

Start by thinking about why you need insurance. Some examples include protection from catastrophic loss, stabilization of cash expenses, offloading defense of claims, and funding early settlement of claims to manage the size of a loss. Make a commitment to paying attention to every small detail. An underwriter can only make decisions on the information you provide. If you don’t give each detail sufficient attention, the underwriter won’t have all the information required to make the right decision.

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Here are 10 tips to consider when you’re buying insurance:

1. Give the underwriter a reason to write the account. There will be basic underwriting guidelines for any underwriter, but this framework is not intended to address every possible situation. Give the underwriter a reason to fit your business into the guidelines, or to make an exception if it’s necessary. Make a point to emphasize what’s good about your organization: good works, prevention and risk reduction programs, professional operations, and more.

2. Let the underwriter know if you have a renewal quotation for an existing policy. This can provide a baseline, giving the underwriter a chance to match or beat the other quotation. Having the renewal quotation can help you negotiate more favorable terms.

3. Give lead time for an underwriting review. Submitting your insurance application well in advance of the desired coverage date gives the underwriter an opportunity to review your application and clarify any questions. This advance time also gives you an opportunity to figure out all the features of the insurance product, solicit competing quotations, and compare terms.

4. Complete the application. This might sound like an obvious tip, but make sure you answer every question. Each one is important to the insurance company, and an incomplete application will either be declined outright or sent back to you to complete. Checking to make sure you’ve finished the application can save you a lot of time and hassle.

While we’re talking about this: [Free eBook] 10 Really Stupid Taxpayer Beliefs

5. Include all supporting information. The insurance company wants to see each piece of requested information in order to accurately underwrite your policy. List each enclosed item in the cover letter, and perform a second check to be sure that each item is in the package before you send it.

6. Be accurate and honest when you provide information. The insurer often doesn’t discover false information until you file a claim, and by that point the insurer is generally within its rights to deny you coverage. This can result in a loss of the protection you thought you’d been paying for.

7. Anticipate questions and answer them up front. Provide explanations for answers on the application when you consult with your insurance agent, and explain any unique exposures related to your business. Provide all the information that the underwriter needs to evaluate the risk in a single submission.

8. Respond promptly to any requests for additional information. Quick action saves you time and keeps the process moving, and it also demonstrates that you are professional and cooperative.

9. Respectfully negotiate quotation terms. Sometimes an honest mistake, misunderstandings about the risks involved in your operations, or unreasonable underwriting guidelines can lead to an unacceptable quotation. You have every right to question the basis for the quotation and try to get more favorable terms, but make sure you do it respectfully and don’t alienate the underwriter. Act reasonably to the underwriter, and give the underwriter a chance to act reasonably in return.

10. Offer alternatives for unacceptable quotation terms. Show a willingness to work with the insurer to find a solution that works for every party. For example, if the insurer declines at first to cover an activity, offer to implement an insurer-approved risk management plan and accept a higher deductible in exchange for coverage.

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Matt Tarkenton

Matt Tarkenton

Matt Tarkenton is Executive Vice President at Tarkenton Companies, and has started several businesses and is interested in business formation, strategy, and growth. He was part of a group that started Renova Partners, a boutique investment bank, and was recognized as a “40 Under 40: Up and Comer” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2009. Matt performs business planning and marketing training for hundreds of professionals across the country, and co-hosts a weekly coaching program on entrepreneurial education. Matt graduated from Princeton University, and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. He maintains his Series 7, 63, and 79 licenses, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Youth Villages, on the Education Committee of the National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA), and in leadership positions in various organizations.