It hardly requires reminding anyone that there are significant opportunities in selling to the massive (but fickle) Small and Medium Sized (SMB) market; by some accounts there are as many as 25 million SMBs operating in the US and perhaps another 75 million on a global basis.
And as appealing as the SMB market is because of its sheer size and scale, it is certainly a challenging market. You could line up 100 SMBs – plumbers or manicurists or lawyers – ask them how they market and advertise their business and you’d probably get 100 different answers.
As an industry analyst – I ran the preeminent local search analyst firm The Kelsey Group (now BIAKelsey), sold print Yellow Pages in northern California, and now am Advisor to BuzzBoard, Inc. I’ve come to a few observations as to what steps are necessary to make an engaging and profitable SMB customer interaction.
1) Know thy customer, thoroughly
It used to be that finding a prospect was as simple as walking down the street or looking through the phone book. Nowadays, finding the “right” SMB prospect is a key step to securing long-term high value customers.
Use tools and platforms that surface prospects that fit your skills and capabilities. Perhaps your agency is known for great SEO work. If so, find SMBs who are lacking in organic ranking so that you can add considerable value to their business. Knowing what exactly your customers lack and how your company can improve their business even before the first meeting, is a crucial element of a successful process.
2) Listen to thy customer, actively
Even if you’ve done great lead qualification and think you know exactly what your SMB needs, sometimes your SMB’s needs might be completely different from what you might want to sell to them. By practicing active listening, you’ll come up with perhaps better solutions that address their specific needs instead of simply trying to sell them something that you think would be useful for them.
3) Wow thy customer, impressively
The volume of data in the market grows exponentially every hour of every day. Harness the power of big data to wow your SMBs.
Empower yourself with knowledge about your SMB’s business history, target market, brand, social presence and website presence before you meet them. Leverage big data to gain more insight about your SMB and turn that data into a means for distinguishing your company from your competitors.
4) Converse with thy customer, substantively
Don’t just converse with your customer. Set yourself apart with conversations that demonstrate genuine interest in bettering the SMB’s business, thereby improving the quality of your sales conversations many fold.
According to a McKinsey study, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Connect with your customers at various levels and use your emotional intelligence to truly understand your customers. This brings authenticity to the entire sales engagement experience and when you bring authenticity, you build trust.
5) Own thy customer, fully
It is time to rise above the mundane sales process. Distance yourself from your competitors by providing your SMBs with an extraordinary sales experience. Leverage what I call the 3E’s – Expertise, Engagement and Empathy:
- Expertise about your knowledge of their business
- Engagement with data-backed meaningful conversations
- Empathy for your SMB’s needs and goals
There is no debate – the SMB market offers tremendous rewards for those companies who make the effort to practice these five steps to a greater and more long lasting customer engagement.