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sales sherpa
23 April 2015

Be The Small Business Sales “Sherpa” – their knowledgeable, experienced guide – leading them to success.

Selling to the small or mid sized business owner? That’s about as easy as pinning Jell-O to a wall, right? Business owners have 4,329 priorities in front of YOU, so how does a Sales Pro sell to the Small and Mid Sized Business?

With the sheer volume of opportunities—Small and Mid Sized business owners {SMB}—represent one of the best prospects for sales pros—but it takes some sharp skills, persistence and a tremendous amount of empathy and experience.

Small Business owners need you to be their “Sherpa”—their knowledgeable, experienced guide that leads them through the process to success.

Going after Small business sales? That’s about as easy as pinning Jell-O to a wall, right?

80,000 small businesses open up every year in this country. That means, whatever industry they’re in, there’s most likely a lot of competition seeking the same customers and the same market dollars. They need unique, effective and efficient solutions to be distinct and competitive. How does your product give them a competitive advantage?

Cash flow is King. The SMB owner may want your product, they may need your solution, but cash flow may be a problem. The average small business has a net income of only 6.3 percent of revenues {–Mark Morganford}. Of course they want profitable growth, of course they want to scale, but they have got to securely fund business operations first—inventory, payroll, et cetera. Do you have a product or solution that works with the SMB’s operating cash flow {and how quickly will your solution pay for itself}?

The top three problems for small and mid sized businesses are health insurance, federal taxation, and locating qualified employees{–Gene Marks}. And you wonder why they don’t jump on your new technology right away? They’re dealing with major stuff every day—sink or swim kind of situations that affect the near term and long term health of their business. Solutions they consider are either addressing one of those problems or adding directly to the bottom line. There isn’t a lot of room for anything in between and therefore if you have to convince them that they in fact HAVE a problem that you have the solution to—you can probably expect a long sales cycle. To effectively demonstrate WHY they need you, have clear, data backed results of how you can improve their cash flow or ROI.

The average small business has six employees. That means there is no “HR”, “Marketing”, “IT” or “Sales” department. Everyone needs to be all in and usually the owner wears all the hats, juggling quickly shifting priorities, putting out fires and with barely enough time to eat lunch on most days. So who do you think is going to have to evaluate your proposed solution, learn, implement or coach your solution? The SMB owner knows he or she shoulders that burden and the time, emotional and intellectual cost of adding that to their lengthy “to do” list is exhausting to contemplate and very much factors in to their decision to buy. Successful sales Sherpa’s demonstrate how they will join the team and lead the SMB through the transition into implementation and return on investment.

The biggest obstacle in selling to small business owners is their time. That’s clearly evident in just how difficult it is to gain an audience with this customer. They are always moving and most take evasive measures to avoid being “pitched” multiple times daily. The usual networking and even social selling methods of engagement are spotty as most business owners spend their time in their business, working on their business—where they are usually “cold called” and rightfully annoyed by it. Selling to this slippery customer takes multiple methods:

Get to know them outside of their hectic environment. This is difficult but many SMB’s attend local industry group meetings, chamber meetings or volunteer in their community on non profit boards. DON’T network them, build a relationship with them and understand what truly matters to them.

Provide references and referrals. When every minute and every decision counts, SMB owners don’t want to take your word for what it’s worth. If you have no current relationship, there is no foundation of trust. Who do SMB’s trust? Friends, family members and other SMB owners. Make sure that you do your homework on what relationships you share, which references you can provide them and referrals go a really long way to getting in to their circle of trust.

Promote and advocate for them online. If their business is social {SMB’s are usually either superstars or more likely barely present} share their mission, promote their product and engage them to let them know you’re listening, you’re a fan and you’d like to be their partner. Connect with them on LinkedIn and provide insights and resources for their business. Showing them what it’s like to know you, do business with you and providing them with insights to help make their business better can help them understand what kind of “Sherpa” you’ll be for their business.

Show how you’ll respect their time, spend their time and give them back more time. Price is usually not your biggest sales obstacle. Your biggest hurdle and first objection is TIME. When you’re asking for a meeting—be clear how much time you’ll need, be completely transparent about what you’ll discuss and be upfront about what results you can produce.

These brave and bold businesses are the backbone of our economy. They need support, experience and coaching to be profitable and scale. They provide the tax base and job base for most every community and that means if your product or solution can improve their business, YOU have a part in building jobs and tax base in your community too. Move beyond the consultive sale and consider yourself a professional Small Business Sales Sherpa—leading your small business clients to successfully climb the mountain.

Small Business StatisticsUntil next time, keep kickin’ butt!

-sks

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