The bread and butter for many independent agencies and brokerages is small business. Traditional agencies tend to target small businesses because they’re “in plain sight, on the same block, with owners attending the same church, social events and Chamber of Commerce meetings.”
However, like any niche, there are risks inherent in specializing in small business—the biggest of which is its high mortality rate. “Small businesses come and go. Their stability is low. We try to go after the more stable ones,” says AIMS Society member Jim Mansfield, CPIA, principal of Mansfield Insurance Agency. To undercut this risk, his agency focuses on businesses like dentists, ophthalmologists, pharmacies, and contractors.
Localness and relationships are key success factors in this arena. “I try to be a consumer first, before being their insurance agent,” Mansfield says. “I belong to several business associations and network through those. Be of help to them. New businesses need so much information in the start-up. Try to be a resource to them.”
When Mansfield meets with a small-business customer or prospect, he visits with the owner, who usually needs an education on what his business is worth and how insurance can safeguard it. “I stress the protection of their assets, which is more than what their financial statements show,” he notes. “Their employees and customers are assets, and their protection is significant.”
Agencies that succeed at targeting small business work with their customers to help them not only survive, but ideally to outgrow “small-business” status. For instance, Mansfield insured a mom-and-pop caterer that went from a weekend-only concern to a premier business specializing in weddings and corporate events.
“I felt part of their growth, as many times I was in conversation with their accountants and lawyers,” he says. “If we are to keep customers like this, we need to be recognized as part of their professional network. Once we are, it leads to referrals.”
Mansfield shares his 10 core basics for targeting small businesses:
- Deal with the decision maker.
- Ask the right questions.
- Listen to the answers.
- Formulate a plan that best fits the customers, not the agency.
- Be very clear in your presentation on uncertain issues or coverages.
- During the sales process, focus on the client, not the agency.
- Be prepared for objections.
- Business owners need a plan for the next steps in the sales process. Have a clear, step-by-step itemized list of what is to take place.
- Communicate after the initial sales presentation.
- Follow up on all questions and issues.
Does your agency support and target local or niche customers and prospects using some of the tactics Jim shared? How does it help your business? What else are you doing to build stronger relationships in your community and/or niche? Share your comments here or email us at Donna@AIMSSociety.org. We'd love to hear from you.