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5 Ways Selling Into SMB’s Is Different Than Selling To IBM’s

Now, I run a team of Inside Sales Reps that call into really small businesses. Really. Small. Businesses. I’m talking as small as the in-home daycare your next-door neighbor runs out of her house, or the tutoring business your brother-in-law teacher runs to make the money that he can’t because teachers just aren’t paid enough. If you’re not prepared, it can be as shocking as hair metal bands found themselves in 1989 when grunge rock hit the scene – lost, outdated, and left holding the Aqua Net.

Here are the five ways selling into SMB’s is different than selling into IBM’s (enterprise).

1) Time to Call

When you’re selling to Enterprise organizations, the rule of thumb to get decision makers on the phone is to call early before his or her admin gets into the office. That doesn’t work when you call the Childcare SMB market. If you’ve got kids that you drop off at daycare (and according the this study by Child Care Aware America, nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 are in some type of child care arrangement every week) you know that your daycare/childcare provider is busy with drop-offs from as early as 6:30am. If you want to get your buyer on the phone, you’ve got to understand your prospects’ industry to find out when the best time to talk is. Calling into the Housekeeping industry? Good luck getting them on the phone any time earlier than 4:00pm. Why? Chances are they’re the only one cleaning their customer’s properties. The principal is the same, but the “when’s” about getting a decision maker on the phone are different.

2) Limited Prospecting Tools

Selling to Microsoft, are you? You know how many contact databases you have access to in order to find those targeted contacts? A bazillion. Selling to We Scoop the Poop Dog Walkers and don’t know who the business owner is? Good luck finding out that intel on the web. Now, a lot of SMB’s have a web presence, so it’s not impossible. What I’m saying is that you can’t rely on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, DemandBase, Jigsaw, or any other tool to find the name, title, and contact info for your target. Pre-call planning takes a little bit more digging for an ISR in the SMB space, and they, at times, have to just go in completely cold (trust me, it ain’t dead) because the info on the business owner is just not available online.
(Editor’s Note: We at Radius Intelligence love to hear this type of feedback as we intend to solve the SMB prospecting problem)

3) A (Potentially) Non-Tech Audience

This one really threw me for a loop; please understand that this is not at all a dig at the SMB market, but rather a word of caution to sales reps that sell into SMB’s. There has been many a business owner that my team has spoken with that does not have an understanding of simple technology. I almost fell off of my chair one day, when I heard one of my reps say to a business owner, “nope…you don’t need to spell out ‘backslash’, you can just use the backslash key.” Oh, there’s also the time one of my reps had to explain to a prospect that he could just type my company’s web address into the address bar instead of going to Google to search for it first, then click on it. “How else would I get there!?” he said, completely astounded. I’ve had my own experiences, too, like the time I had to teach an owner where the address bar was on a web browser. The stories are funny, and they’re not meant to be mean at all. One of the differences between calling SMB’s and Enterprise-sized organizations is that your reps need to be prepared to speak with folks that may not be as computer savvy. They may need to do some teaching at a basic level, and if you lose your patience with them, you’re going to lose their business, too.

4) Be Ready for a Demo on Call One

While the majority of Enterprise sales reps would LOVE this but never really get the chance, it happens all the time when calling SMB’s. The trick here is that you’ve really got to be prepared for that when your prospect picks up the call. Sure, there are times when my team talks to a decision maker and then sets up a demo of our service for a later date, but more often than not, that’s happening on call one. There’s no room for error on this one – you’re not typically going to have a couple of days, or even a week to prepare. You have to approach every call with the idea that the person on the other end is going to want to see the product NOW. It just means that you have to be polished, every day, and not that Enterprise reps aren’t, it’s just that it doesn’t happen as often. Act like a boy scout and follow their motto, “be prepared.”

5) Realize Where the Money Comes From

For a lot of SMB’s, there is no “budget,” there is no corporate card, there is no slush fund to reallocate money from to purchase your solution. It’s different with Enterprise clients, right? I mean, more often than not, if there’s a business need, funds can be moved from one project to another. Not always the case with SMB’s. A lot of business owners are paying for services right out of their personal checking accounts. You want them to buy something during the holiday season!? Good luck, because in their mind the decision can whittle down to this: “Does my kid get more presents at Chanukah or do I buy this (fill in the blank).” It’s as serious as that – I’ve watched it happen. So the caution here is that if you can’t proactively walk your prospect through a true ROI analysis of your offering, you’re going to be pushed off until they get more money. Read that again, but with the emphasis added – until THEY get more money, not their business.
Making the transition from one industry within the Enterprise market to another is one thing, but when you’re jumping from Enterprise to SMB, take these five differences into consideration. Are they going to fit everyone’s situation? Maybe not, but from my experience, you’re going to be more successful if you get these lessons under your belt sooner rather than later.

I want to hear from you, though – what did I miss? Do you agree or disagree?

Author Profile: Chris Snell has been building inside sales teams since 2002. Chris is currently the Inside Sales Manager for, where families go to find care-related help for their loved ones. Chris lives in Southeastern Massachusetts with his wife and son. You can connect with Chris on Twitter here, or here on LinkedIn.

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