The insurance industry is a battleground, not a vacuum. To a client, you are one supplier amongst many, and if they're not buying your products then they're buying someone else's.

So it's vital to keep up-to-date with your competitor's approach to business.

That way, you'll find the best ways to concentrate on your strengths – and your competitor's weaknesses. If you are better at something than your main rivals, that is a strength. If you're not so good at providing a service your clients value, then that's a weakness, regardless of how well you are performing in "absolute" terms.

Answer the following questions, and keep asking them.

Identify rivals
If you lose a piece of business, who does it go to? When your clients seek alternative quotes for insurance, who do they talk to? Get out there and ask.

Pros and cons?
What do you do better? Make sure your customers know, and keep it that way. What are you not so good at? Be honest, then take steps to improve your performance.

How and where?
In which geographical areas and on what types of industry do your competitors concentrate? What are their sales methods, and how do they communicate with the market? Where do your operations overlap or come into conflict? First, identify the prospects and niches which are not covered by your competitors. Don't attempt to meet the competition head on unless you have a clear advantage.

Learning lessons
Learn from your competitors' successes and failures. If you spot a successful approach or new product, work out how you can adapt it for your own purposes.

Building a competitive advantage is vital. If you want to give your business a cutting edge, you should learn about how to differentiate your offers and services.

There's a great deal to be gained from being unique. Many large companies are aware of the advantages of a specific market position. Don't forget to explain the new position to your staff.

If they find it hard to express in what way your company is different from the competition, how can prospective clients be expected to understand?

- This article is taken from The Cutting Edge – Part 3, available from your local CGU branch.