Headlines across the country are making it clear that consumers are watching their wallets closely, cutting back on discretionary spending and looking for ways to reduce ongoing expenses. The ripple effect is being felt already by agents and brokers in the form of reduced demand for any number of insurance products, and coverage for recreational boating is no exception. Despite below-average boat sales and cost-conscious weekend sailors, agents and brokers selling boat and yacht insurance should keep their focus on the same sales techniques that are effective in both calm seas and rough waters. Customer service is the key–and by following four tips, agents and brokers can demonstrate that they are equipped to help customers ride out the storm. How bad is it? Boat sales are taking a back seat to other consumer purchases in an economy that leaves many leery of big-ticket items with major upkeep expenses. Although the full statistics for boat sales in 2008 have not yet been compiled, the downward trend reflected in the 2007 numbers tells the story of an industry suffering from the economy’s tailspin. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Assn.’s (NMMA) 2007 recreational boating statistical abstract, recreational boat sales of $37.5 billion were down 5 percent from 2006. Sales of power boats (inboards, outboards and stern drives) tracked the decline in consumer confidence, the NMMA reported, coming in at 267,300 boats and $9.5 billion, down 8 percent and 1 percent respectively from 2006. A spot check of partial results for 2008 shows the situation worsening. In August 2008, sales in California were down 51 percent from the same month in 2007. In fact, of the 50 states, only one saw an increase (Texas, as it recovered from Hurricane Ike). Nonetheless, highlights from the 2007 NMMA report indicate there is still no lack of interest in recreational boating and, therefore, a continuing market for boat insurance. These include:

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