No one doubts that the small business market remains a thriving market for financial services professionals. But businesses and business owners have different needs and concerns than individuals and salaried employees.
Success in the small business market hinges on a clear understanding of those needs and concerns and the ability to motivate decision-makers to take action. This is achieved by focusing on fundamentals, solving problems, and designing tailor-made solutions.
Focus on Fundamentals. Beginners in the small business market sometimes flounder because they lack a sound approach. Some advance on the business or business owner with a packaged sales idea, such as split-dollar or buy-sell, and are dismayed when they discover that the company has already purchased or rejected the package.
Others sally forth with a shopping list of items, expecting the business prospect to identify “hot buttons” among products and services (deferred compensation, 401(k) plans, irrevocable life insurance trusts, etc.) that are likely to be unfamiliar and confusing.
By contrast, experienced, successful professionals understand that the first step to a sale is to focus on the business prospect’s fundamental needs and concerns.
Most of us do this intuitively with individuals. We understand that individual prospects have fundamental needs and concerns around food, shelter, love, security, and self-fulfillment. We are successful in sales when our products and services relate to these fundamental needs and concerns.
For example, individuals don’t buy life insurance or invest in a mutual fund because they are excited about the features of the product; they buy because the product protects someone they love or provides a sense of financial security.
Similarly, financial services professionals who succeed in the business market recognize that businesses and business owners have fundamental needs and concerns around:
-Attracting and retaining quality employees;
-Maximizing income and wealth for business owners and key executives; and
-Continuing the business following the death, disability, or retirement of the owners.
Sales are made when products and services help business prospects achieve goals in these three areas.
For example, businesses don’t implement executive bonus plans because executive bonus is a “hot” concept or offers exciting tax benefits; they implement these plans because they want to get and keep quality employees.
Problem Solving. Beginners in the small business market may struggle even when they understand the fundamental needs and concerns that are shared by all businesses.
This is because they often fail to identify specific business prospect problems within these three broad areas. Having failed to identify specific problems, they then go on to fail to design tailored solutions.
Problem solving begins with a clear understanding of the business owner’s current plan for attracting and retaining employees, benefiting owners and employees, and continuing the business. Problem solving continues with an exploration of the prospect’s goals and objectives. This goes beyond routine data gathering.
It is not enough to simply know that the owner has an existing buy-sell plan. To be successful, the financial services professional must grasp the implications of the business owner’s current situation.