There’s huge sales potential in small business. Small businesses (or SMBs, or SMEs, or whatever you want to call them) are broadly defined as companies with fewer than 500 employees. They make up a huge chunk of the U.S. economy — 99% of Employer Firms in the United States, and account for 66% of net new jobs since 1970. Yet many companies explicitly steer their teams away from the SMB market.
To simplify that point with a metaphor, there’s gold in them there hills. But for the unprepared, there are also bears. Lots and lots of very hungry, dangerous bears.
Compared to enterprise companies, SMBs are more prone to churn and can be easily scared away by large price tags. They lack organized hierarchies, and most SMB owners won’t be used to making purchasing decisions. When they buy a product, they buy it because they have a problem and they want it fixed. Quickly.
Sales teams that aren’t prepared to sell to the SMB market can sink a lot of time into deals, and get only a fraction of the payoff that they would from enterprise business.
The structure, goals, and challenges of SMBs are so different from those of enterprise customers that mastering the sales process is a whole new ballgame. It’s like Michael Jordan making the switch from basketball to baseball — the underlying athleticism is there, but none of the skills transfer over.
If your product is well suited to an SMB market, however, you shouldn’t let lack of experience selling to SMBs stop you from expanding into it. So long as you have competent sales reps at your disposal and a product worth selling, you needn’t fear the pitfalls of selling SMB customers.
Just keep these key pointers in mind when you do.
1. Don’t depend on a single decision maker
At Fortune 500 companies, employees at the low end of the food chain never meet the executive team, let alone get any input in true managerial decisions. In contrast, interns at SMBs will sometimes be put in charge of buying decisions.
That means the traditional sales advice of “Get past the gatekeeper and deal with the decision maker” doesn’t apply in quite the same way. The person who ultimately signs the check may not even know what you’re selling — they may be too busy running the shop to worry about a purchase decision, and delegate all responsibility for it to a manager, sales rep, or yes, even the intern. So don’t take gatekeepers for granted.
Take the time to really feel out the problem you’ve been engaged to solve, understand how it’s affecting the business and who it’s affecting most, and address the interests of every single person involved, not just the decision maker.
2. Don’t expect a consistent buying process
Value is more important than price. The sooner you prove you resolve a problem, the sooner they will buy. That’s both a blessing and a curse, as some prospects will be decisive and buy immediately, while others will drag their feet and draw out the process.
The sole motivation SMB buyers have to make a purchasing decision is to lighten the load on their shoulders. It’s not because their boss told them to evaluate solutions, and it’s not because they’re trying to increase the operational efficiency of their business process.
It’s because they’re too damn busy, and they want to be able to watch their kids’ weekend soccer games.
Keep that in mind when you’re tailoring your talk track and strategizing a sales strategy. Demonstrate how your product lightens the load on their shoulders from the outset, and you’ll get right to a buying decision.
3. Value is more important than price.
SMB owners aren’t cheapskates. They’re not going to go for a product simply because it’s the cheapest one on the market — they’ll go with the product that satisfies their need most effectively.
The difference is they have a lot less time on their hands to figure out exactly what the best product for doing that is. That’s a great opportunity for good salespeople to swoop in and win deals quickly. So long as you show you resolve problems efficiently and effectively, you’ll churn through new business deals with ease.
That’s where free samples, trials, and tests become invaluable. These are the simplest way to demonstrate value and show how the product resolves a specific pain point. However, these tools should be used with caution.
Don’t expect to just dump the trial (sample, etc.) onto your prospect and then move on to the buying process. Check in regularly and make sure they’re getting the most from the product. Ask if it’s checking all the boxes they needed it to solve and explain alternative uses they may have missed.
This approach ensures you are eliminating the problem that led the prospect to evaluate your product, and maximizes the likelihood of closing the deal.
If your sales reps follow the right approach, selling to SMBs is simple, straightforward, and incredibly profitable. Use these three tips as a starting point, and take advantage of the huge market that’s waiting for you.