Building your small business prospect pipeline



If you’re a small business insurance broker, building your prospect pipeline is key to your success. But before you create a strategy, you need to understand the value proposition of your brokerage, says Igor Bubic, the director of marketing and communications at Gore Mutual. “If you don’t recognize what’s uniquely different about the services you offer, how can you expect a customer to know?”

Brokers will also need to determine who their ideal target client is, says Sylvia Garibaldi, principal and founder of SG and Associates in Toronto. “You’ll have to locate where these people hang out. It may be finding associations that your target audience belongs to. You need to know who they are and what their pain points and needs are.”

Social media use

To earn a prospect’s business, it’s important to become a trusted business advisor, says Larry Graham, an associate at LePhair Associates in Toronto. One way to achieve that status is through social media.

1,143,630
The number of small businesses (with up to 99 employees) in Canada in 2015.

Source: Statistics Canada

Graham says you can do this by writing blog posts on LinkedIn about topics targeted to your ideal client. For instance, if you’re targeting microbreweries, write a blog post about trends in that space. Once people can see your interest and credibility in an insurance niche, then you can search for specific prospects via LinkedIn’s search tool.

LinkedIn allows users to search for specific players in a given industry, Graham notes. For example, he says, you can search for “VPs of operations in the GTA.”

However, Graham warns brokers to make sure their profiles are up to snuff before reaching out to prospects, emphasizing the need to stress your brokerage’s area of expertise on your LinkedIn page. “I could have all the leads I want but if my social profile [is] self-oriented, it’s not going to resonate.”

If a prospect isn’t on LinkedIn, he suggests sharing articles with them through email. “I should be looking at trade mags and my own links to that industry that would keep me understanding what’s going on. If I know you’re interested in construction, I’m going to look into information that would be relevant, then send it to you.”

Outside the digital realm

Garibaldi says if your ideal client isn’t active digitally, one of the best ways to establish your credibility in a market sector is through speaking engagements at industry events. “It could be a small room of business owners, having a place where you could speak and build credibility.”

“If you don’t recognize what’s uniquely different about the services you offer, how can you expect a customer to know?”

If you choose this method, she continues, “It’s always got to be about something your ideal client finds painful. You can only get their attention when you address their pain point.”

If you prefer to avoid public speaking, she suggests finding a prospect’s centres of influence. These “are the people who influence your ideal target audience. They’re perhaps not your ideal client, but they work with your ideal client in a non-competing industry; maybe a life insurance agent who specializes in group benefits, or [a] lawyer.” Once a relationship is built with a prospect’s centre of influence, an introduction can be made.

A third option Graham mentions is asking current clients for a referral. He suggests reaching out and saying, “I appreciate the way we’ve been working together for a while. After I deliver on your expectations of me, would you be comfortable providing me with an introduction to someone like you in the same—or another—industry as another potential client?”

He reiterates that it’s key to ensure you have met the client’s expectations so they’re comfortable with this process. “To have the guts to do that is important. It would be your best way to get new business. Not many people do it.”

Closing the deal

If you manage to secure a first meeting with a prospect, that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed business. Garibaldi says, “There’s this myth out there that you can’t bring in clients in the first meeting, and in this particular case, you probably can’t because you’ve got information-gathering to do. I think the objective of the first meeting should be about securing the second meeting.”

10,000
The number of small business owners who participate in more than 300 events across Canada for Small Business Week.

Source: Business Development Bank of Canada

To hook the prospect in for a second conversation, you need to prove your value and expertise. One way to do this, Garibaldi says, is by asking questions to establish the prospect’s points of pain. For example, you could ask a prospect what their business might look like if they didn’t have an insurance product and a loss were to occur.

Getting prospects to dig deep will help you analyze how your services can best benefit them. “That’s the act of using powerful questions, because as the broker, you should be doing minimal talking the first meeting. It’s all about getting the prospect to talk by asking powerful questions,” Garibaldi says.

Another key to securing a second–or third–meeting is reinforcing your competitive advantage in the prospect’s industry.

Behzad Salehoun, the co-founder and innovation lead at BrokerLift, notes that small business owners typically aren’t well acquainted with the inherent risks involved in running their businesses. “There’s a huge opportunity for brokers to share information and provide value to small businesses out there,” Salehoun says.

Then, if you do secure the prospect’s business, Bubic reminds brokers it’s important not to forget about them—or your existing clients. “Use those existing customers to become your brand ambassadors. Cater to their needs, and the best tool is always word of mouth.”

__________________________________________________________________________
Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the December 2017 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P.
Transcontinental Media G.P.