Networking to Sell to Small Business
Guest Contributor: Lewis GreenLewis' Posts
- Lewis' BlogIf you want to sell to small businesses, you must be willing to invest your time building relationships. The most important lesson to learn about small business owners is that, although they may have years of corporate experience, they make decisions differently now that they are investing their own money. They take longer to buy a product or service and they understand that they can buy that product or service from a variety of vendors. At the end of the day, their decision to buy is not based on functionality, but on value, and that means that they buy the "who" not the "what".
In other words, they are buying you. And at the top of the list of qualities that they look for before they buy from you are trust and credibility. Since telling someone to trust us doesn't work, we have to show them. And that takes time. To be successful, we need to build relationships with those small businesses that represent our best customers. The most effective way to build a relationship is not cold calling or selling; it is networking.
Through networking we meet small business owners and executives on safe ground, where we can begin the process of getting to know each other. This may begin at a Chamber of Commerce After Hours Event, a Tradeshow, a Rotary meeting or any number of places. But no matter where it begins, we must recognize that sincerity is the key to success and that we need to be ourselves, we need to be authentic. And we need to recognize that we are building relationships, which may take a year or more, not selling products and services.
Following are the goals we should set in relationship building:
1. Establish Trust
2. Establish that the interaction is important
3. Establish that we can help each other via this social interaction
4. Recognize that because we trust each other, have shared something mutually important and both have benefited from it, we can establish mutual acceptance and say to each other, "I'm a good person and so are you!"
Labels: build relationships, Chamber of Commerce, cold calling, establish trust, Lewis Green, longer to buy, professinal networking, trust and credibility, variety of vendors
Small Business Market Poised For Continued Growth
Administaff released their latest Business Confidence Survey of small business owners after interviewing over 5,800 of them with their questions. Here are some of their findings:
- More than 82 percent of small business owners said their companies were growing on schedule or at a faster pace than originally predicted at the beginning of the year
- 59 percent said they are meeting their initial business projections this year, 23 percent said they were exceeding their initial 2007 expectations
- Half of the survey's respondents said they were hiring additional full-time employees, 13 percent were hiring part-timers to fill in work force gaps. 41 percent were making do with existing staff
- 61 percent of small business owners are attempting to attract older, more experienced workers
- Employee compensation was up 6.4 percent, with commission rates increasing 11.7 percent over second-quarter 2006. Overtime pay was 10.2 percent of regular pay
- 58 percent of respondents said a competitive salary or wage package is the top incentive for attracting new employees, while 26 percent pointed to a good benefits package. Others cited flexible scheduling, training and development, and vacation and additional paid time off
- To retain employees, 47 percent of companies offered higher salaries, 46 percent provided workers with "new challenges and responsibilities" and 35 percent extended opportunities for advancement
- Fifty-three percent said the greatest issue is "hiring the right employees," while 31 percent cited the cost of medical insurance coverage and 29 percent were concerned about increased competition from other businesses. Other concerns included economic conditions, the housing market, capital issues and regulatory compliance
Labels: Administaff, business confidence survey, competitive salary, employee compensation, Evan Carmichael, experienced workers, full-time employees, hiring the right employees, run a growing business
Make a connection by asking this key question
Selling to small business owners is all about making a personal connection. Entrepreneurs tend to buy from people they like and your front line salespeople will be the ones creating that make or break connection.
One of the easiest ways to establish that connection is to ask the entrepreneur why they started their company. I do a number of interviews with business owners for my If I Were A Startup section and I always lead off with this question because it will always create a discussion.
People who have started their own business are usually very passionate about what they do. They also tend to love any opportunity they get to tell their story and share their passion with others.
Entrepreneurs start businesses for a variety of reasons - some see an opportunity that cannot be ignored, others are so frustrated with a problem they are facing that they search for a solution, and other still start for stranger reasons such as a dare from a friend or an inability to find a job.
By establishing yourself as someone who is genuinely interested in the entrepreneur's passions you are likely to create a positive first impression and get one step closer to landing the sale. You will also learn more about how business owners think and get you into the mindset of the entrepreneur.
Labels: create a discussion, front line salespeople, If I Were A Startup, landing the sale, passionate, personal connection