Selling disability insurance to small businesses can be a great way to secure a new client base. However, selling to companies with small budgets and even smaller — or nonexistent — human resources departments may be challenging for an inexperienced broker. Here are five tips to keep in mind when reaching out to small business clients.

1. Understand the small-business mindset.

Small business owners want to ensure their employees are protected by the benefits they are able to offer; however, they often don’t have budgets to support numerous plans. Employees are the most important resource for small businesses. Just one small business employee not working due to an illness or injury is one too many.  

Small business owners want to work with a carrier that understands this — which can open the door to a potential disability insurance sale. Disability insurance can help small businesses be productive and profitable. Disability carriers have expertise and resources to assist employers in stopping some medical conditions from turning into disability leaves and helping employees return to work safely after a disabling condition.

2. Emphasize local, personalized service.

Small businesses are more likely to rely on local resources. A carrier with local account managers can earn their favor and help close a sale. If an employee has a disabling injury or illness, that personal connection will give the business owner the peace of mind that his or her broker and the carrier’s local account management team are nearby and ready to help.

3. Offer strategic counsel.

Many small businesses lack a dedicated human resources department, often relying on third-party counsel to help them make benefits decisions for their businesses. Cultivate customer loyalty by recommending a carrier that provides excellent customer service and pays claims in a fair and rapid manner. This can open the door to future sales and referrals.

4. Provide plan updates.

Disability insurance contracts and plan designs can get out-of-date due to factors such as evolving marketplaces, business growth, changes in employee demographics and company policies. This may be truer for small businesses without dedicated HR resources. Sit down with your customer to review the specimen contract with the carrier before the effective date of coverage. Your due diligence will demonstrate your concern for the best interests of the employer and its employees.

Contract provisions on which to reach a consensus and provide clarity with the employer include:

  • Eligibility
  • Waiting periods
  • Member definition
  • Earnings definition
  • Definition of disability
  • Limiting conditions (including mental and nervous disorders, drug and alcohol, subjective or other limited conditions)

It’s very important that the employer is in agreement on the earnings that will be insured — for example, base wage plus or minus overtime, bonus, shift differential pay, etc. Reviewing the plan will get everyone on the same page and help to eliminate problems when a claim is filed. It may even ensure the carrier issues prompt payment to the employee.
5. Design a creative plan.

When it comes to customer service, don’t distinguish between a small and large client. Make sure plan recommendations reflect their needs, whatever the size. Resist proposing a basic plan because it’s inexpensive. Look for areas in the plan design that can be enhanced to maximize budget. Small-business owners will appreciate the thought you put into the plan and the insights you recommend for the welfare of their employees.

Help your small business customers protect what they have worked so hard to build. Selecting the right comprehensive disability insurance plan from a carrier that understands small businesses is a strategic decision that will help the employer’s bottom line. These insights can help small business owners attract top talent and position you as their trusted adviser, both now and in the future.

About Keith Storie

Keith Storie is the product development marketing director for The Standard. In this role, he helps to prioritize and develop new products, services and capabilities needed to maintain and grow market share and develop new market opportunities.

About The Standard

The Standard is a leading provider of financial products and services, including group and individual disability insurance, group life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, group dental and vision insurance, absence management services, retirement plans products and services, individual annuities and investment advice. For more information about The Standard, visit

The Standard is the marketing name for the subsidiaries of StanCorp Financial Group, Inc.: Standard Insurance Company, The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York, Standard Retirement Services, Inc., StanCorp Mortgage Investors, Inc., StanCorp Real Estate, LLC, and StanCorp Equities, Inc.

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