Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are the core of the US economy. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), they account for 47% of private sector payrolls, employing 59.9 million people. Approached correctly with the right products and solutions, SMBs present a significant market opportunity for health insurance brokers and agents.
Here are ten tips for health insurance professionals on prospecting and selling health benefit solutions to SMBs.
1. Don't Rush the Sales Process
Selling is a process. If you skip important steps such as qualifying a prospect, understanding their true pain, or providing education on the solution you'll likely lose the deal. That said, swelling to smaller organizations is typically easier as there are fewer decision makers and formal purchasing processes. Be patient, yet know how and when to move the process along.
Skilled sales professionals are able to assess where the prospect is in their decision making process, and move the prospect through the appropriate steps at the right time—all while building a relationship to cultivate a long-term client.
2. Focus your time on the most qualified leads
Know your most qualified leads and focus your time with them. Understand and establish a qualification process that enables you to quickly and easily identify qualified leads that are worth your time, and identify unqualified leads who will waste your time (and you theirs). These processes might be applied to a cold call, or to a referral from a long-time client.
3. Always know what your goal is for the outcome of a meeting
Have you ever left a meeting with a client that felt very productive, but after the meeting you realize you have no idea what the next step is? We've all been there.
Think of the sales process as a series of offers and agreements, with the last offer being an agreement to buy. At each meeting or touch, know what your intended outcome is for the contact so that you can ask for their agreement and clearly know what the next step is.
For example, at first contact, your offer may be a 5-minute phone call. The second offer may be a 30-minute health benefits assessment. Know your goals, and set up-front contracts to set clear next steps (e.g., "If I send you a proposal today, can you review it and make a decision by Friday?").
4. Make “Yes” the logical and emotional choice
Selling is a skill set—both an art and a science. While specific transactions and agreements occur throughout the sales process, much of your time should be spent cultivating a relationship, listening to determine your prospect's needs, and proposing the right solution. When you build genuine relationships and help solve SMBs problems, saying “yes” becomes the logical and emotional choice.
5. Don't be afraid of "No"
Many sales professionals dread hearing "no.” But if you've done your due diligence, hearing a decision (yes or no), is a good thing. A yes means you've closed the deal. A no means they are currently not qualified and you can clear them from your sales pipeline for those who are. Don't be afraid of no, but do ask why they've decided not to buy. Unless specifically told otherwise, follow up with old leads. Business budgets change, the economy changes, and decision makers change.
6. Understand your prospect's true pain
You meet with a prospect for the first time who sounds ready to jump into quotes. You might think, “this prospect will be a quick sell!” Don't fall into this trap. Back up and qualify the prospect to understand what their role is, what motivates them, what their challenges are, what their goals are, and what their budget is.
Seasoned sales professionals often say “the first question is never the actual question.” Follow up with 2-3 more questions to get to the real pain and the real need. This will help you determine if what you can sell them something they want or need.
7. Build genuine relationships... but don't push it
Relationship building is vital to successfully selling to SMBs. But the key here is genuine relationships. Work to establish a peer dynamic and align with the goals of their organization with solutions you have to their problems—even offering new ideas to help their organization succeed.
Avoid asking irrelevant or generic questions from a script. Instead be knowledgeable about your prospect’s background (take notes about them personally and professionally), and ask a lot of questions. The bottom line is to be yourself—not the salesperson version of yourself.
These skills take time and practice.
8. Do more listening than talking
There is a time for all sales professionals to talk, but resist the urge to talk too much about yourself or the product/solution you're selling. For one, you might be talking about a solution or product they have no interest in and miss an opportunity to talk about the solution that actually solves their problem. For another, you may come across as a "know-it-all" or like you're talking above the prospect. This is a balance. Just remember to give a little, get a little. If you find yourself talking too much, stop. And turn the conversation back over to the prospect by asking a question.
9. Don't rehearse or over script
When you first start out, it is tempting to rehearse or script your calls. However, a problem with rehearsing or using a strict script is that you forget to listen and you sound robotic. As a sales professional, it's important to learn to listen, think on your feet, and adapt to new information. Instead of rehearsing or scripting, be an expert on what you're pitching, know what your intended outcome is for each touch, and focus on picking up on the problem they are trying to solve.
10. Find a mentor and ask for feedback
Whether you are a rookie just starting out or a seasoned sales professional, we all can continue to improve. Ask for feedback frequently. For example, ask a colleague to shadow you on sales calls or do some role playing. Ask them how they deal with common objections you're struggling with, or how to better organize your leads and sales pipeline to be more efficient. If you're a one-person operation, network with other health insurance professionals and/or find a mentor in the industry.
Want more ideas? See these related articles on selling and prospecting health benefits to SMBs:
- 8 Tips for Health Insurance Brokers on Effectively Prospecting SMBs
- How Small Businesses Buy Health Benefits, Compared to Large Businesses
This post was originally published in March of 2014. It was last updated October 30, 2020.