According to Deloitte, there are close to 30 million small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the United States. These represent 97 percent of all business, and they employ nearly 60 million people — almost half of private sector employment. While there is fluidity in the definition, we define SMBs as those employing less than 500 people, are driven by profitability and sustainability, depend on debt and subsidies for financing, and are limited in growth by size, number of employees, and locations. Including everything from mom and pop shops to restaurants and insurance agencies, they are driven by an individual’s desire to be their own boss. Chances are, you regularly interact with those who own and manage SMBs, making them prime targets for sales professionals. However, as with startups and enterprises, it helps to know a little about them before you walk in the door. Here are five tips for selling to SMBs:
Qualifying the lead should be an essential first step in the sales process. First, determine if you are speaking to a decision maker. Some owners give considerable power to long-time employees, which may or may not include final purchasing power. Also, does the SMB have a single owner or are there partners or family members behind the scenes? Ensure the SMB has a need for the product or service you offer along with the budget. You can lose trust if you offer solutions the client either does not need or cannot afford, and without a thorough understanding of their situation, everything else is a waste of time for you and your potential buyer.
In contrast to startups and enterprises that often rely on technical experts or entire departments for very specific responsibilities, SMBs tend to be owned and managed by people who wear many hats. They may be involved in most areas of running their business—sales, purchasing, marketing, customer service, finance, HR, and so on. Given these circumstances, approaching a business owner or manager with fancy jargon can have the opposite effect of creating interest. Instead, rely on your own customer service experiences when you are off the clock, buying not selling, to express empathy and build a rapport. After all, as they are sales professionals themselves, you have a lot in common with the people in SMBs and can easily identify with their concerns.
In many cases, SMBs tend to be fiscally conservative and risk averse. While sales professionals in all sectors should demonstrate value, it’s especially important to demonstrate value when selling to SMBs. As they are often motivated by cash-flow considerations, the more you can reduce their risk, the more appealing your offer will be. To this end, offer short contracts, flexible payment plans, free trials, and money-back guarantees.
Support your sales efforts with content that will appeal to owners and decision makers of SMBs. These should be rich in testimonials and social proof that will be relatable and relevant to their own business model. Share case studies from real customers who have benefited from your products and services to showcase how your solutions can lighten the load for them and their team members.
While sales professionals in all sectors should regularly check in with their customers, SMBs might benefit from additional support. In contrast to startups, which often have investors serving as advisors and multitiered enterprises with internal assistance, SMBs often function with less resources, and they will appreciate the time you take as a trusted advisor who genuinely cares for the success of their business. Remember, for the SMB, their business really is personal.
While they do not generate the excitement of the startup or the potential payout of an enterprise sale, for sheer consistency and reliability, SMBs are an essential part of a diversified portfolio. Of course, it goes without saying, no matter who the client, salespeople should be genuine to build relationships and form lasting partnerships. For that reason, in many ways, the average salesperson has much in common with their counterparts in SMBs. You both aim to provide solutions that benefit the people who put their trust in you, and while it often isn’t flashy, at the end of the day, it’s a good feeling and an honest living.