The Art of Selling to SMBs (Small and Midsize Businesses)

SMBs have a variety of motivations, and your solutions need to help them reach their goals.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are approximately 30.7 million small businesses in the United States. Given the size of the small and midsize business (SMB) segment, there’s even more opportunity to increase the velocity of your sales each quarter since SMBs often make decisions faster — especially when there are fewer decision makers to win over.

There is a specific art to small business sales. In this article, we’ll explain what an SMB is and break down how salespeople should operate with small business sales clients. Finally, we’ll explore different strategies for business-to-business (B2B) sales among SMB clients.

SMB stands for small and midsize business. While by some definitions small businesses are those with fewer than 100 employees and midsize businesses have fewer than 1,000, the numbers are subjective. The U.S. Small Business Administration, for example, classifies small businesses by the number of employees and average annual receipts.

In many cases with SMBs, the owners are still very much involved in all the decision-making, and they manage operations differently when compared to enterprises, which have multiple layers of bureaucracy. Often, SMBs can be identified by the unique challenges they face, since they might not have access to the same resources as large corporations.

Small business sales need to account for SMBs’ unique challenges.

There are a handful of reasons why B2B sales to SMBs present a different set of challenges than selling to enterprise-level corporations.

Budget

SMBs generally have smaller budgets and operating margins. The resources they do have tend to be less liquid, too. That means most small business owners don’t always have adequate working capital to grow their operations or invest in big solutions. As such, SMB owners are more likely to scrutinize each deal and rely on subscription payments.

To overcome an SMB’s budgetary concerns, offer low-commitment, month-to-month options that minimize the up-front cost. In these B2B sales, your company must deliver consistent ongoing value to encourage clients to continue their subscription the next month.

Also, be patient. If the timing isn’t right, SMBs won’t place an order right away. Be mindful that an SMB’s cash flow may be limited, and be understanding if they need to wait a few months before converting.

Time

Small business owners are often busy around the clock. They’re more likely to work seven days a week and put in overtime to keep things running smoothly. An SMB owner oversees it all when it comes to applying for funding, marketing, maintaining employee engagement, sales, customer service, invoicing, and all the tasks associated with running a business. It’s time-consuming and stretches their capabilities. As a salesperson, you must be aware of what an SMB faces.

Given that small business owners are constantly strapped for time, they may be hesitant to take any pitch meetings. Be patient and sensitive to their limited availability by working around their schedule. Your flexibility will go a long way in helping to convert the buyer into a happy customer.

Constraints

In B2B sales, it’s important to understand the importance of every decision your clients make. Among enterprise buyers, the wrong purchase likely won’t burn any bridges or disrupt the company’s budget. In small business sales, however, some of your reps may find that it’s better to walk away from a deal if they think the prospect won’t fully benefit from it. Mistakes among SMBs can be hard to recover from.

To be successful at small business sales, put yourself in the owner’s shoes. Find a justifiable reason for wanting to purchase your product or service. When an owner makes a purchase, follow through with onboarding and to ensure ongoing customer success.

In taking these challenges into consideration, it’s clear that small business sales can be hard. It’s worth perfecting your approach because you’ll tap into a wide market of customers: Small businesses alone account for 99.9% of U.S. businesses and employ 59.9 million people in the U.S.

Adjust your strategies for small business sales.

Some SMBs are family owned, others are founder driven, and all do not have as much cash, access to capital, or expertise as multinational organizations. It’s important that you respect these differences and find opportunities for mutual wins.

Make a strong case that demonstrates how the goods or services you offer will provide your prospective clients with meaningful ROI. Get to know the owners, how they work, the biggest pain points they face, and what matters most to them. Then you can pitch a solution that helps drive their vision forward.

As you work with SMBs, be aware of these two important factors.

Not all SMBs want to grow, and not all of them should.

While some SMBs scale and grow quickly without consequence, there is such a thing as growing too fast. Many small businesses will benefit more from focusing on stability and self-sufficiency than from setting their sights on exponential growth.

However, one way that small business sales reps can still introduce value is by offering solutions that improve operational efficiency, streamline processes, and minimize costs. That way, instead of growing top-line revenue, your customers can focus more on how they can increase their profits.

Many SMBs prefer scalable operational expenses over big purchases.

This is most commonly seen in software sales. Back in the days of traditional client-server software packages, technology trends favored large enterprises. That’s because the software packages required a cash commitment up front, backed by a staff of in-house IT professionals for implementation, maintenance, and security. Few SMBs had the resources for those kinds of purchases, and those that did often preferred to avoid such large expenditures.

However, software as a service (SaaS) has changed the game. In charging a monthly fee that can be scaled up or down as an organization’s needs evolve, many software companies opened their services and technology to SMBs. Small businesses can now afford technology that was previously unavailable to them.

If your company is able, offer a subscription payment plan or another method to reach SMBs with strict budgets. This helps by simultaneously improving your monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and offering your clients more payment options. Salespeople can also turn this into a quick win by offering free trials and starter packages. These help clients better understand the benefits of your products or services, experience their advantages firsthand, and then justify the purchase.

Look for key selling points for small business sales.

Among SMBs, the biggest selling points are products or services that:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Decrease costs
  • Drive revenue

In your B2B sales, make sure you hit on at least one of these basic criteria for selling to small businesses.

Furthermore, SMBs are relationship-oriented. What’s especially important to your buyers is post-sales service, so reassure them and provide them with a plan for onboarding and continuing customer success.

Beyond that, other best practices for B2B sales are important to maintain, such as value-driven follow-ups, customer education, and a thorough understanding of your client’s unique challenges and needs.

Use these three tips to successfully manage B2B sales.

In small business sales, there are three important strategies sales reps should always keep in mind: Respect the owner’s time, make interactions personal, and make the owner’s life easier.

1. Respect the owner’s limited time.

When it comes to selling to SMBs, you need to be the flexible one in the relationship. Setting prices, determining service terms, and even worrying about your competitors all take a back seat to getting a small business owner to give you their precious time. Make it a rule to set and keep appointments on your end, but remain flexible so you can accommodate your client’s schedule.

2. Keep interactions small, intimate, and personal.

A small platoon of tailored businesspeople may be the last thing a small business owner wants to deal with. Your lead may feel more comfortable in jeans than slacks and could prefer to do business with someone who feels approachable. On the other hand, they may prefer to make business deals in suits and shined shoes.

Develop a true understanding of your prospect’s personal and professional pain points. You need to first build rapport, then a relationship, and the rest will flow more naturally.

3. Focus on ease of use.

No matter what you sell, small business clients must be able to implement it seamlessly into their existing processes. Make sure to offer solutions that integrate seamlessly with their current business and ensure they are helped and trained as needed. The easier your offering is to use, the more likely your client will immediately be able to take advantage of your solution to save time, trim costs, or increase revenue.

The art to small business sales is to know small businesses.

SMBs have a variety of motivations, and your solutions need to help them reach their goals. A successful B2B salesperson finds a way to help clients achieve their dreams in a manner that’s respectful and honest. Whether clients want to grow or stay as is, whether they have a lofty budget or a modest one, you should strive to help them increase efficiency, decrease overall costs, and proactively manage their revenue. Be a force for good for their business.

Smart salespeople take into consideration the fact that some small businesses later evolve into corporations. Therefore, in thinking beyond your quarterly sales goals, look to build client relationships that will span the duration of your career. When your clients’ wellbeing is your primary concern, you become more than a salesperson. You’re their partner for success.

 

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