by Angus MacCaull

“The Sharpest Pencil in Town” is a phrase that originated in the valley. When Cheryl and Joel were starting the book that is now the New Minas office, they used to work out of Cheryl’s basement. Joel would bring in a lot of potential clients with his charm and marketing skills, then Cheryl would impress them with her extensive knowledge of insurance. This led people in the Valley to literally start saying that AA Munro “had a sharp pencil”.

It’s kind of cool how this slogan wasn’t simply dreamed up in an ad executive’s office somewhere. It came from clients. Joel recognized that what they were saying had a nice ring to it, so he and Cheryl starting putting the phrase on flyers.

What clients were really referring to was Cheryl’s expertise. I asked Cheryl to quickly tell me about some of the basics of their success. She said that it comes down to knowing your discounts. She said that you have to ask good questions in order to find out what’s possible for people.

One example that Cheryl gave me was of a man who had two cars on a policy with himself and his son listed as drivers. But the policy was written with a company that didn’t write young drivers. So Cheryl separated the one policy into two and placed the son with an appropriate market. The total savings were about $2000.

In another case, a woman came in who had firehall protection instead of a Table 1. Certain updates hadn’t been recorded either. So Cheryl went carefully over the policy and the woman’s savings were around $400.

“If you really know your discounts and apply them,” said Cheryl, “then you will get the customer. There’s all kinds of people that we were taking and they were with some company but we looked at their policy and changed it around and giving them the correct discounts and the correct information was making their premiums lower even with the same company. They thought we were the greatest thing since sliced bread! It was fun in those days, and sometimes it was a lot of work!”

Cheryl also noted that it’s important to be quick with a quote. When people are shopping around they deserve to get a sense of what you can offer as soon as possible. In order to be able to do this, again, you have to know your discounts. That’s what makes a sharp pencil.