The nature of small- and medium-sized business (SMB) sales has changed, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, and sales reps have to adapt their sales conversations accordingly. With the disruption in operations caused by the pandemic, SMB concerns are different. Business is slower, cash is tighter, and the future is uncertain. SMB operations need to solve a new set of problems.
This means SMB sales reps need a new set of scripts to engage in successful sales conversations. Sales reps need to understand how to talk to SMB owners in a way that shows they understand their issues and can help them solve those issues while ensuring a return on investment.
Engaging SMB Buyers
When tackling SMB sales, the first thing to remember is that SMB owners are people too. We all had a rough 2020, and sharing our mutual experience helps to build an empathetic bond. Of course, you will ask them about their business and how things are going, but also be sure to ask about their families, their health, and how they have been faring during the lockdown. Take the time to get to know them as people before trying to understand them as customers. Once you establish a rapport with an SMB prospect, it will be easier to learn details about their business, understand their specific problems, and discuss potential solutions.
Now, SMB buyers are self-selecting more, researching their own solutions before they talk to vendors. SMB buyers don’t want to be “sold.” They know what they need. What they want is help in finding the right solution to their problems. If you adopt an empathetic approach, making an effort to engage as a fellow human first and a sales rep second, it opens the door to more productive conversations.
When engaging SMB buyers, it’s valuable to understand their mindset. Where are they in their buying process? Do they have an urgent need for a solution or are they just kicking tires? As part of the engagement, you want to determine if they are concerned with cash flow or revenue, which could affect their buying power. You also want to determine how much support they will need.
As part of the initial engagement, you want to qualify SMB prospects to determine where you should place them in the sales pipeline.
Conversations for Qualifying SMB Prospects
SMB sales differ from enterprise sales in that you are typically dealing directly with business decision makers, which makes the sales process go much faster. It should make lead qualification much easier as well. As part of the sales conversation, be sure to properly qualify SMB prospects by getting the answers to basic questions such as:
1. Do they have an established business?
Working with a company that has been around for a while is usually more productive than working with a startup that has just gotten funding and is still trying to define what kind of strategy and infrastructure they need.
2. Do they have a well-defined need?
Most SMB buyers do their homework in advance and have a good understanding of the problems they need to solve, including how to solve those problems. If the need isn’t well-defined, it makes selling more challenging. Also, determine how well-informed the prospect is and whether the sale will require substantial education.
3. Do they have the budget?
A common characteristic of SMBs is they have smaller operating budgets. Every dollar invested has to be linked to a tangible return. Be sure that your solution isn’t beyond their means. Talk pricing early to avoid sticker shock.
4. Is there an opportunity to upsell?
Did you know that a 5% increase in customer retention can yield a 25% to 95% increase in profits? Determine if the SMB prospect promises to be a long-term customer who will need more of what you have to offer down the line. Whether you are selling to SMBs or enterprise customers, the objective is always to lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) and increase lifetime value (LTV). Be sure to assess the LTV of SMB prospects to determine the likely return on the sale.
Discussing the Deal
As part of the sales conversation, you need to know what it will take to close the deal. For example, is this a consulting engagement? How much support will be required to meet the prospect’s needs? You also may need to offer additional assurances with testimonials and other proof points.
Since budget is always a concern, you may consider strategies to sweeten the deal. Is it possible to offer a free trial? Will the solution be more affordable if you arrange payment terms? You may also consider offering a money-back guarantee to ensure customer satisfaction.
As part of the sales discussion, you also need to come to a common understanding of what success looks like. Clearly define the pain points and identify what it will take to address them. Talk about onboarding and what will be required to get the customer started. Also, review customer success team involvement and when it's appropriate to bring in support. You want to deliver maximum customer satisfaction and, ideally, turn your SMB prospect into an evangelist.
Getting Help with SMB Selling
SMB selling has its own set of potential pitfalls, and outsourcing can help you avoid them. Many steps in the SMB selling process can be more cost-effectively handled out of house, lowering CAC and increasing LTV. Many of the mundane tasks at the customer acquisition stage can be readily handed off, leaving the sales rep to deal with more important matters.
For example, lead qualification and lead nurturing can be time-consuming and aren’t the best use of a sales rep’s time and resources. Similarly, outsourcing the customer success program is also a proven strategy to increase LTV. You can outsource onboarding and training to outside professionals who can answer questions and address tactical issues without involving the sales team.
If you understand what makes SMB selling different, you can adapt your sales conversations and achieve greater success. It’s all a matter of knowing all you can about your SMB prospects. To learn more, see our infographic, “7 Techniques to Increase Your SMB Sales.”