Insuring Small Businesses

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Small business can be big business for your agency!

However, with millions of small businesses, it's easy to just assume that you can find enough to build a strong revenue base. With so many prospects in your area, do you even need a marketing and sales plan?

Absolutely. Resist the impulse to simply start selling insurance to small business owners without a plan. After all, you have limited time, energy and resources that can be spent pursuing small businesses. Your selling efforts must be as efficient as possible.

Here are five sales and marketing tips that can help you grow your agency's list of small business clients.

Tip 1: Understand your customer

Surprisingly, there are many insurance agents who sell to small businesses who never bother to truly understand the needs of the small business owners they are calling on.

To sell insurance effectively, you must not only understand the small business owner's insurance needs, but you must also have insights into what personal and business challenges they face on a daily basis.

Consider developing an introductory questionnaire that asks the small business owner a series of questions. Sample questions might include:

- Tell me about your business and its growth plans.
- When it comes to buying insurance, which of these attributes is most    important to you (expertise, price, reliability, honesty, or efficiency)?

By starting your sales process with a series of probing questions, you accomplish two things. First, you show that your methodology is to start with a diagnosis and then prescribe a solution that is tailored to the needs of the small business owner, not simply to push the same cookie-cutter solution you give to everyone else.

Second, you establish a relationship with the small business owner that goes beyond a simple insurance transaction. Your goal is to demonstrate that you are somebody who is truly interested in what they do and who cares about helping them to succeed.

Tip 2: Highlight Your Insurance Expertise

Insurance is a baffling subject to most small business owners. It's important that you educate your prospects on the nuances of small business insurance and showcase your expertise. Think about what you want them to think at the end of your first meeting. Perhaps you'd like these thoughts to be top of mind:

- I was confused about insurance before we started the meeting. She explained everything to me in a way that was easy to understand. I like that!
- I still don't understand everything about insurance but I'm sure glad he will be working with us. He really knows his stuff!

Now, listen to yourself as you present. Are you achieving your goals of educating the small business owner and instilling confidence? If not, it's time to go back and refine your presentation.

Tip 3: Add Value Beyond Insurance

Studies have shown that many small business owners feel isolated. They indicate that they have few resources to turn to for good advice. Your goal is to fill that need by offering advice that goes beyond the world of insurance.

Sound like a tough assignment? Maybe you've got a small business client who owns a dry cleaning business. At first blush, you might think that you could never teach your client anything about running a dry cleaning business. But the reality is that you can help them to grow their business simply by serving as a sounding board for their ideas. Talk to them about what they are trying to accomplish and help them think through the best way to do it.

You should also actively refer business to them. Occasionally, buy them a business book and give it to them as a gift. By demonstrating a strong desire to see them be successful in their business, you go beyond their expectations and will likely keep them as an insurance client for years to come.

Tip 4: Pursue Micro-Segments

Micro-segmenting is a marketing concept that preaches that you should dominate small, niche segments of your market. It's a marketing technique that can work extremely well for those who sell insurance to small businesses.

Take our dry cleaning example above. You might define a micro-segment in the following way: We want to handle the insurance needs of every dry cleaning business in the metropolitan area.

Once you define your marketing objectives with that level of precision, you gain clarity and can achieve your micro-segmenting goals. Courting dry cleaners is a specific and achievable objective selling to small businesses in general is too broad and leads to a loss of focus and ineffective selling.

Micro-segments can be defined however you want to define them. You might chase after "every small business owner in town who likes to play tennis" or "every small business owner who has incorporated within the past two years." Once you've defined a micro-segment, simply create a list of qualifying prospects and brainstorm on how you can get in front of them and convince them that you are the best agent to service their insurance needs.

Track Your Progress

Assuming that you followed our advice in our first tip and have asked your clients and prospective clients what's most important to them, make sure you take the right steps to track whether you are meeting their objectives.

Many insurance agencies find that tracking a few key metrics can give them a solid foundation for improving customer service. For example, how often do you communicate between agency and client? How quickly do you return calls? What is the speed and accuracy of the transactions you engage in to support your client?

By quantifying these metrics, you can see whether service is improving or degrading and you can take steps to make sure your service is getting better over time. It's also a good idea to issue a Customer Satisfaction Survey at least once a year to find out how satisfied your customers are and what you can do to improve their loyalty to your agency.

Generally speaking, customers don't expect you to be perfect. But they do expect you to care and they do expect you to get better over time.