Agents are some of the toughest competitors around, but every business owner can benefit from a fresh look at whom they’re competing against — including partners who aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. 
 - @GETTYIMAGES.COM/ George Doy

Agents are some of the toughest competitors around, but every business owner can benefit from a fresh look at whom they’re competing against — including partners who aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. 

@GETTYIMAGES.COM/ George Doy

I was asked to write this article for a few reasons. We have always pursued our competition and competitive targets with enthusiasm. We are very willing to attack competitive targets and risk offending every other person in this industry. And we are the only agency AE magazine knows that ever sued a bank for tying their GAP to their loans and won!

My goal in this article is to help everyone find a new competitive target, compete fairly, compete aggressively, and win consistently! 

So, what is competition? 

Crack open a dictionary, and you will see competition defined as a rivalry among sellers seeking “sales, profits, and market share by offering the best combination of price, quality, and service.”

Everyone sees competition differently; what type of competitor are you? Do your competitors envy you, hate you, or do they copy you?

There are millions of ways to compete and win. Just take the NCAA men’s basketball competition and compare the enormous differences between West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and Loyola Chicago’s team chaplain, Sister Jean. One violently threatens opposing players while the other hugs and prays for players’ success. They both won!

Competition Is About Winning

The goal here is to find a competitive strategy and win, and we have seen innovation win business!

I am not going to offer you our innovations, but think about AI menus, innovative online training tools, and strength through consolidation. What have you done to innovate and separate yourself from the market? 

If you can’t innovate, copy brilliantly. We have seen motivated copycats win business, and nothing breeds copycats like a successful business venture. Everyone is talking about innovation, but copying others is a reality of doing business. If you cannot create new ideas, copy the best ideas in a legal manner, improve them by personalization, and execute brilliantly. 

We have even seen individuals with nothing more to offer than pure grit and determination win business. This competitive strategy is probably the most difficult over the long haul, yet anyone willing to get out of bed every day and outwork your weakest competitor will find opportunity. 

Competitive Targets

Here are just a few of our competitive targets and ways to win against each:

Banks and finance companies: In my company’s aforementioned legal action, we decided to use the bank’s weakness against them, so we sued them and won. The judge stated “…what they (banks) can’t do is tie their loans to their GAP product to the exclusion of other vendors of GAP.” We found a target, competed in a court of law and won!

  • Finance sources are strong because they have the money and dealers need it! Their weakness is an aversion to bad publicity, conflicts, and lawsuits. 
  • Manufacturers: Factory targets are more important than ever, and their strengths are clear: They own the franchise, they make and market the vehicles, and their dealers are totally dependent on them for their livelihoods. The factory uses these strengths to gain control through coercion.
  • But their greatest strength is their greatest weakness! Dealers hate factories that use coercion. Use this as a competitive advantage and help your dealers help you. 
  • Does the dealer need your F&I income development and compliance support?
  • Maybe the dealer believes they must sell the factory plan, but what if we help the dealer change the factory plan?
  • We can help the dealer negotiate reinsurance and lower preset factory admin and ceding fees. 
  • You must know the factory plan inside and out to compete and win.
  • Use the savings you helped the dealer win to pay you for the F&I income development you provide.

Bottom line: Your dealers need your training, service, and support. 

Vendors: Anyone with experience at the retail level knows that a dealer’s current vendor will very likely become their future competitor! And if the actual vendor doesn’t, their current employees will!

  • You and your dealers must negotiate aggressively and protect your interests. Vendors only respect volume, strength, and opportunities to grow new business. You must have a strategy to negotiate from a position of strength. 

Direct writers: Direct writers are similar to factories in their attempts to use fear and coercion. However, the keys to competing against the big direct writers are: 

  • Get up-to-date information on their programs and personnel.
  • Have an aggressive plan to provide personal service with local support. 
  • Know your strengths and highlight your local service and stability.
  • The best direct writer reps are always getting promoted and moving on from your market; the others just occupy space until they get caught and removed. 
  • They always have a cookie-cutter pitch.
  • Know their pitch, copycat it, and make it better. 
  • Find out what your dealer really wants and needs versus what the competition is bringing.
  • Use their own tools, fee schedule, and cession statements against them. 

How many competitors have you watched come and go over the years, and how many reps have you seen your competitors cycle through your market? 

This is a hugely competitive business that runs through more good people than we can even count. But it is a rewarding business for those that can successfully compete and win! Take the time to reassess your strengths and weaknesses. Know that we, your competition, are already doing this for you in the marketplace every day!

There are many ways to compete and win. The key is to know your competition, know yourself, and have the pure grit and determination to win business!

Tom O’Neil is the founder of automotive finance and insurance provider O’Neil Financial Services Agency Inc. (div. Brown & Brown Inc.). 

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