Cracking the Code on Selling to Small Businesses

It’s not that small businesses don’t want to have products that would help their operations grow; it’s that they often don’t have the resources. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business comprises 99.9% of all businesses throughout the country. That means if you’re a B2B (business-to-business) company, your primary focus is going to involve small businesses.

Cracking through and making sales can be arduous, at best. It’s no small feat to convince a small business to purchase from you when there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of competitors all clamoring for the same revenue streams.

Nearly 48 percent of all U.S. workers are employed at a small business (according to the U.S. SBA ).

They don’t have time for long sales pitches

With the bulk of companies considered ‘small,’ it may appear on the surface that it’s going to be a solid ‘in’ for sales, but here’s the crux of the problem:

• Most small businesses operate on narrow budgets,
• Employ an average of 3 people,
• Often have built-in defenses against sales ‘pitches.’

Oh, sure, those small business owners will listen to you, be polite as they focus on “more important” or pressing issues, but the moment you walked through the door and introduced yourself, they started counting the minutes until you’d be ‘out of their hair.’

Focus on the ‘must-have’ product or service

The best way to “force” yourself ‘into’ their mind and get them to pay attention to you and what you’re selling is to show them why this product or service is a ‘must have.’ These small business owners are only going to open up their razor-thin budgets for something that’s going to be an immediate need and provide a concrete advantage of them.

Determine how your product/service fills a ‘need’

As long as you have a product or service that’s worth paying for, you’ll need to determine how to sell it as a must-have item. Not all small business owners will be able to think outside the box or be ‘forward-thinking’ as it pertains to technology. This is where your marketing approach must be refined. That’s not always easy to do. You may be responsible for selling what you may consider being ‘nothing extraordinary’ as far as a product or service, but the point is to help the small business owner recognize his or her need for it.

Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs and former sales rep at QVC, once commented that when he went for the interview at that QVC job he was told to ‘sell’ the interviewer a basic number 2 pencil. What Mike did was impressive and landed him the position on the spot. Read about his account here.

The point is this: most small business owners are overwhelmed. They often don’t realize what they need. Help them understand.

Demonstrate YOUR value

How is a small business that’s scrambling to make monthly payments for inventory, payroll, insurance, and so-forth going to believe you offer them any real value?

  1. Be sure to have quality and verifiable testimonials. Creating ‘fake’ testimonials is easy, and it’s wrong. You can generally tell a fake one when it doesn’t have the first and last name or the business associated with it.
  2. Build a quality reputation and ask for referrals, testimonials, and even online reviews through legitimate sites. When you build that kind of status, you’ll be showing your true prospect value.
    When they easily see and verify those testimonials and reviews, it leaves a positive impression and helps to knock down a ton of walls.

Offer to solve a problem TODAY

What good is it going to do business if you aren’t going to be able to help them in the immediate days? These small businesses need fast responses and solutions, not something that will pay dividends “in a few years.”

Keep in mind that 80 percent of small businesses fail within the first 18 months. So, understanding that, why would small business be looking at long-term benefits if they are struggling right now?

They need to understand the value in what you offer in that it can help them starting immediately or at least within a few weeks. If what you’re offering requires a long-term investment, you are going to have to work harder, strive longer, and be more patient.

Develop relationships

When you approach a small business, you will likely work with one individual who will most likely be the owner. If you’re targeting a larger company, you will rarely have access to the owner, but more likely a key manager or executive.

This is when you’ll want to focus on building relationships. Relationships that are worthwhile grow and strengthen over time. That means you will have to stay focused, be open to questions, and communicate clearly.

It’s also a good idea to be dependable, understanding, and flexible with your schedule. There may come a time when this prospect calls on you for a demonstration, to more clearly explain the benefits of the product or service you offer or give clarity to some issue. Be willing to submit to their schedule, needs, and will.

Always Remember, Small Businesses WANT to Succeed

No one gets into building a small business with the intent of failing. No one. Every single small business owner wants to win. They want to succeed. If you can show them that your product or service can streamline the process, push them in the right direction, or solve an immediate problem effectively and efficiently, you will be cracking the code on selling to that small businesses.

Every product and service, as well as every small business owner, has an entry point. Determine what that is, focus on the relationships, and build for the duration, not the immediate, short-term sale.

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