How To Introduce Yourself To SMBs
Last month I wrote about Getting Involved In The Community To Build Trust Instead Of Selling
in which I mentioned how Jordan Arron from the BDC was able to become the first outsider to come in and present his company's value proposition to my Mastermind Group members.
Jordan took the right approach and wanted to build relationships instead of selling. He was genuinely interesting in helping my members and did not come with the "always be closing" attitude.
I asked Jordan if he wanted to write about his experience to help others who are trying to make connections and sell into the small business market. Here are his thoughts:
"Last month was my first opportunity to introduce myself to the business owners of Evan Carmichael's Mastermind group. It was a tremendous opportunity which I had the privilege of being a part of for two reasons. Firstly, because not only did I get the chance to hear Frank Cianciulli of Enunciate speak about his experience growing his business, but I was also given the chance to introduce myself to a very targeted group of individuals to grow my
As an Account Manager at the Business Development Bank of Canada my one mission is to support small and medium sized businesses by providing the combination of aggressive and customized financing solutions, with consulting services. The way I become successful at this is by being as deeply rooted into the various networks of business as possible. The challenge in this task is that people are always busy, and groups like the Mastermind groups are highly solicited, which can make it difficult to present your offering to them. It was only after I was given the chance to speak to the group that I realized that it was because of my approach that I was given this opportunity.
I think that if I were to summarize my approach, that it would have two specific characteristics (which I will admit, certainly are not unique, nor do they reinvent the wheel). This first characteristic is that I want to listen more than speak. So often people in sales are trying to tell people what they are selling or offering, without being able to understand who they are talking to. Not only does "active listening" allow you to collect your thoughts, and to understand your counterpart better, it also doesn't give such a "hard sell" approach which can put some off quite quickly. Even if you are about to sell something as simple as a pen, people will jump to all the features of that given pen, as opposed to understanding if the person is looking for a $0.50, $50, or $500 pen.
My second habit is that I naturally want to help people in any way possible. Even if I am not going to be lending money to them, I always look to leverage my network by putting them in touch with a potential joint venture partner, purchaser, supplier, or other financial institution. I realize I've actually started building strong relationships with people that I didn't offer money to. This approach in its truest form, works excellent amongst like minded individuals, and in the end they often end up pointing people in their network back to me.
In summary it was great meeting the members of the Mastermind group, and I look forward to the next event I can be part of. As Evan was kind enough to let me enter this circle of individuals, I will look to make every new relationship a two way street where I not only support group members with BDC financing or consulting services, but to just always keep in mind what they do, and to make appropriate introductions for their business where possible. I consider it a privilege and truly enjoy working with entrepreneurs and learning about their visions of success. When I can make a contribution to this success, it's even better."
Labels: account managers, always be closing, BDC, build relationships, Business Development Bank of Canada, Frank Cianciulli, Jordan Arron, Mastermind Group, small business community
Stop Making it about you- and watch those sales come!
Guest Contributor: Albert LukAlbert's Posts
- Albert's SiteI am undergoing quite a radical change in my life lately. After many years of practicing for myself, I have joined a client of mine in an executive position. Instead of selling to small businesses, I am now on the receiving end of being sold to by companies targeting SME (we would be described as a medium sized business). Sadly, this has meant parting ways with many of my clients. It has also meant that I have taken a front-row seat as some of my ex-SMB clients try to find new lawyers. I see the experiences and challenges they face finding service providers who deal in trust. I wanted to share a story and observation with you (on a no-names basis of course).
Fundamentally, your ability to sell to the SMB market depends on establishing trust and the quickest turn-off for any entrepreneur is making the sale all about you. How do you know if the sale is all about you?
An ex-client wrote me two weeks ago saying that he hated lawyers. The reason? Please, no lawyer jokes. To paraphrase, he did not feel that any of the lawyers he interviewed were mean, unlikeable or generally unpleasant. Rather, the sense that he got was that in each phone call or interview the lawyer was immediately trying to "cash in" on his business. Remember that he was finding a lawyer and not being cold-called. To dispel the notion that all entrepreneurs are cheap clients, this was the clincher for me: my ex-client said to me: "it wasn't about the money, and I wasn't asking for a discount- it was the service."
Lawyers tend to make bad salespeople; they are trained to defend and not sell. However, the point remains that making a sale about you by trying to "cash in" is a recipe for a non-sale. People instinctively know when you are putting your own needs ahead of theirs. As a few practical suggestions, try to put your potential clients at ease by avoiding these "all about you" sales techniques:
1. Raising price very early in the conversation when it has not been asked. This comes in two variations - pushing price onto a potential client early or negotiating a discount to a list price before the list price is ever raised. In my experience, it seems to imply you want a quick sale and you really don't care about your potential client;
2. Beginning an up-sell before you got the first sale. Typically, this involves a conversation whereby the salesperson says "and once you buy x software, we can upgrade you to y hardware, bring in our installation team to integrate your system, upgrade your service warranty and hire our partners ABC to do it." These types of conversations convey to your potential client your grandiose plans for you (even if it is well intended and you want to provide a full suite of services). Speaking about a future when there isn't a past or present relationship is something to be avoided. It is like speaking about your marriage plans on a first date- it usually never goes well.
3. Linking every conversational item back to a potential sale. If a potential client voices dissatisfaction with high taxes, do you indicate that buying your product/service is tax deductible? It is a bit of an extreme example but if every conversation has a road that leads back to the salesperson it usually ends in a dead end.
Remember we are all in the business of providing good service. I hope you can use some of these tips in your own sales process. Good luck.
Labels: Albert Luk, cash in, deal in trust, finding service providers, making the sale all about you, raising price, selling to small businesses
Understand SMBs By Reading Related Forums
One of the biggest challenges that large corporations have selling into the SMB market is that they do not have a sales force that understands what it is like to be an entrepreneur. I have discussed on a number of occasions in this blog the benefits of hiring sales staff who have either run their own businesses in the past or have been involved in some way in the SMB community. Entrepreneurs are very much relationship oriented buyers and appreciate someone who understands their problems.
So what can you do if you want to get a better handle on what entrepreneurs are thinking about? Join a few entrepreneur forums. Many business owners turn online when they have a question they are looking for an answer to and join an online community.
In our own Entrepreneur Forums
, for example, we cover topics from starting up a new business to sales and marketing to franchising to women entrepreneurs. With 11 different categories there is something for everyone here.
Browsing around the forums will give you a sense of the hot topics for entrepreneurs today. Some of our popular topics include: Facebook: $3,200 in new revenue
, Blogging For Promotion
and Finding Good People
By better understanding what small business owners care about you can better target your pitch to them to maximize the chance of closing the sale.
Note: There can often be a strong desire to sign up for an account and promote yourself in these types of forums. This is typically frowned upon by the entrepreneur community. You should be there to ask questions or propose solutions - not to promote yourself. Self-promotional forum campaigns often backfire and will generate negative opinions of your firm.
Labels: entrepreneur forums, Evan Carmichael, SMB market
Top 7 Tips To Selling To Small Business
Give Something Away For Free
Small business owners are always concerned about their budgets and and working on limit financial resources. A great way to introduce your product or service to business owners is to offer a taste of what you provide for free. Show SMB's the value that you can bring and that they cannot live without you.
A great example is GoToMyPC
. It is a service that allows you to connect to your office computer from home. As an entrepreneur who likes to connect evening and weekends, I tried out the service and am on a free trial for 30 days. After connecting for the first time I knew I would become a member when the free trial ran out. It is easy to use and incredibly valuable for a business owner who wants to be able to get their files and use their computer from any location. If GoToMyPC can only get entrepreneurs to try out their service, they are sure to bring on a significant number of new clients - hence the free trial that got me hooked.
While it is true that someone who pays for your product is more likely to use it and value it compared to someone who gets it for free, I always recommend showing the price of the product and then offering a promotional free trial to show users that it is a valuable investment.
Offering something for free not only gives you a potential customer base to sell to but it can also give you positive PR (ie. celebrity endorsements) and can help you stand out as a good corporate citizen if you give your products to charity.
It is far easier for some companies to offer something for free depending on your product or service but regardless of your industry, try to find a low-cost way to give away a taste of what you have to offer for free and your small business owner prospects will take the bait. It will then be up to your product to deliver on its promises and your salespeople to close the deal. While small business owners are cost-conscious and like anything that is free, they do pay for what they value. It is up to you to clear through the noise and get your product in their hands.
Labels: celebrity endorsements, free, GoToMyPC, limited financial resources, promotinal free trial, sales and marketing budgets, valuable investment
3 Tips To Sell To Small Business In The Summer
Summer is typically known for being a slower time for most companies. However, small business owners typically find themselves working overtime and stressed out during the summer months.
Here are some of the challenges small business owners face over the summer. If you can help solve these problems, you are one step closer to making the sale and making the summer months among your best!Getting New Clients
Many of the decision makers at prospective client companies end up going away on vacation during the summer and it can be hard for business owners to get to a yes. As sales slow down business owners get anxious and desperate to close new business.
Show how your products can generate new leads quickly and speed up the sales process to land these business owners as customers.Coordinating Staff Vacations
Summer is also typically the time when the staff at small businesses go on vacation. This can leave the business owner stretched thinly and working overtime to run the company until the employees come back.Sales Tip:
Show how your products can improve efficiencies and automate processes. Make sure there are some short time wins that the entrepreneur can see immediately to help solve their short term time crunch.Dealing With A Cash Crunch
While employees are away and business is slowing down, rent and wages still need to be paid for most businesses. This can leave many business owners in a cash crunch and unable to make a purchasing decision until the slow summer ends.Sales Tip:
Offer financing. Show the business owners that they can realize the benefits today but not have to pay until they have the money coming in from their sales season.
Labels: close new business, generate new leads, getting new clients, selling in the summer, small business owners, speed up sales process, stressed out, summer months, top challenges, vacation