What would you choose: working on a $1M deal for a year or having a million smaller deals close during the same period?
The problem with the first option, i.e. large-scale, enterprise sales, is that you never know if the prospect will eventually convert at all. So at the end of the day, you might simply waste a whole year of your work pursuing a dead-end lead.
In this case, focusing on SMB sales would be a far better option: as they say, one small fish is better than an empty dish. However, selling to small and medium-sized businesses doesn’t make the process any easier.
Whether you’re only getting started with SMB sales or looking to up your game, this hands-on guide is the right place to start.
The hands-on guide to successful SMB sales
Running a small or medium size business is quite a challenge; there are dozens of pitfalls and risks you need to navigate every day just to stay afloat, let alone grow or become profitable.
That is why selling to SMBs is no easy task. After all, small businesses typically have scarce resources. So if you’re not offering enough value in return for what you’re asking for, you won’t get past the initial contact with the prospect.
As a result, SMB sales have a lot to do with psychology. And while using certain brain tricks can help you sell more, there’s more to a successful SMB strategy than that. Namely, there are three things that can help you sell to small and medium-sized businesses: orderly sales processes, an effective sales strategy, and the proper toolset to augment your efforts.
In this guide, we will talk about the listed aspects of the mid-market sales process and how they can contribute to your bottom line.
Set up an effective SMB sales process
An effective, well-structured sales process is one of the aspects that separate high-performing sales organizations from average and underperforming ones.
But what makes it so important? We’ll get to that later. First, let’s define a sales process itself and see how selling to small and medium-sized businesses differs from enterprise sales.
The SMB sales process explained
Simply put, the sales process is a set of activities that help you convert leads into customers. Although specific activities and their number might differ depending on your business type and the strategies you use, a typical sales process includes the following steps:
Connecting and qualifying
As mentioned above, these steps are pretty universal; they can as well be used with larger companies, not just small and medium-sized businesses. However, when discussing enterprise sales versus SMB sales, there are distinct differences. For example, the latter usually has a much shorter cycle, is not as clearly structured, and there are fewer stakeholders involved.
Still, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to bother with any formal process when selling to small and medium size businesses – quite the opposite.
Why do SMBs need a solid sales process?
According to the YouGov and Pipedrive research, an average UK SMB is losing up to £15,000 every month due to disorganized or inaccurate sales activities.In this regard, the most common hurdles SMB sales teams face are poor sales performance, inefficient sales operations, and a lack of sales tools management practices.
This is why formalizing and communicating your process to the team can really make a difference for your business, helping you improve your sales team’s productivity and build rapport within it.
What makes a winning SMB sales process?
Having your sales cycle stages sorted out is half the battle. There are other aspects that define the success of your sales process, for example:
Productive team with allocated roles and responsibilities
Suitable sales strategy
Solid toolset to support your sales efforts
While identifying your ideal customer and keeping your team productive is important, the strategy and toolset you choose have a much bigger impact on your sales success, especially for SMB sales. That is why those two aspects merit special mention in this guide.
Polish your SMB sales strategy
The strategy you choose to generate and convert your leads has a major impact on your sales process and its success in general. However, not all strategies work equally well for SMB prospects, taking into account the specifics of your target audience and sales cycle.
Where do your SMB leads come from?
All lead generation methods are typically classified into inbound and outbound ones.
According to DemandWave, most B2B leads come from inbound sources, namely email marketing, organic search, and social media. And that is very much true when selling to small and medium-sized businesses.
To get the most out of this approach, you can also use some proven inbound tactics, e.g. targeting and segmentation, timing, re-nurturing, and so on.
Outbound strategies, e.g. cold outreach, are often referred to as traditional sales tactics (and even deemed obsolete by some). The fact is, however, they still work pretty well and can even get you a steady flow of leads if you choose the right tactic.
For example, to make cold outreach effective for SMB sales, you should finetune the strategy for targeted, personalized engagement across several channels, instead of aiming for as many dials per day as possible.
3 tips for building a successful SMB sales strategy
Regardless of the approach you choose, there are some things that can help you optimize it for SMB sales and boost their effectiveness:
Qualify and prioritize your leads. The ability to tell the leads who are most likely to convert from the ones who will only waste your time is especially important for high-volume SMB sales funnels. After all, if you try to chase all the rabbits you might end up catching none of them.
Focus on building relationships. Don’t think of your prospects as the numbers in your CRM. A successful SMB strategy is all about people. So, instead of pitching your product to the prospect right away, aim at establishing a connection first of all.
Deploy omnichannel sales tactics. There’s no need to choose between the inbound and outbound techniques. For better results, use a combination of both methods and offer multichannel, end-to-end customer journey. On top of that, using certain software can help you increase the effectiveness of your SMB sales efforts.
Build your ultimate SMB sales toolset
There’s a good reason why 73% of sales professionals use technology to close more deals with 97% of them considering sales technology “very important” or “important”. A solid toolset can make your sales process a lot more efficient and contribute to its overall success.
Namely, there are three main reasons to invest in sales technology: to use your time and resources more efficiently; to gain a competitive edge as an innovative company; and to offer a better sales experience.
Now, let’s see which tools do you need to get those benefits.
Must-have sales software in your toolset
A typical stack of a sales development representative consists on average of 6 tools, including CRM, data services, social prospecting, and sales cadence automation, i.e. email and phone engagement software. However, when it comes to the number of sales tools in your stack, more doesn’t always mean better.
To start with, consider including these three types of sales software to your stack: CRM software, sales acceleration tools, and sales intelligence software.
Sales acceleration tools, including process automation, sales enablement and engagement software, represent another vital aspect of any SMB sales toolset. Adding such software to your toolset can lead to a 30% increase in deal closures while helping you reduce your sales cycle by 18%, and sales administration time by 14%.
Sales intelligence software
Sales intelligence software, from lead generation tools to conversational intelligence and analytics platforms helping you sell smarter, drawing on data from the rest of your sales stack. No surprise that 98% of top-performing sales teams believe that it’s one of the most important means for closing the deals.
Employing at least one tool from each category in your SMB sales process should be enough to keep track of your leads, engage with them across multiple channels, and source actionable insights from the data to finetune the process along the way.
How to pick the right tools for your sales stack?
With the vast variety of sales tools on the market, making the right choice has never been so hard. One of the obvious ways to pick the best tools is by following someone’s recommendations. However, simply copying someone else’s toolset is too risky: what works for one business might not necessarily work for you.
To make an informed decision regarding your sales tool set you need to look through a broader lens. Namely, here are some of the key factors you need to take into account at the evaluation stage:
This is where unbiased user review platforms like G2 come in handy. You can easily assess the available options and make a side-by-side comparison, based on the listed criteria. The best way to see if the software meets your needs is to see it in action. When shopping around for sales tools, prioritize the ones that offer a free trial and take a couple of shortlisted options for a test drive before making the final decision.
With around 29 million SMBs in the US alone, which makes 99.7% of all businesses in the country, you simply can’t afford to waste such an opportunity focusing solely on large enterprise clients.
That’s why it’s so important to tailor your process for SMB sales. Having your process, strategy, and toolset figured out is a great way to get started in this niche. Later on, you can experiment and tailor your SMB strategy for better performance.
Once you've found the right tools for your SMB sales stack, make sure to manage those contracts and track your team's usage and spend with a helpful tool like G2 Track.
Lucy is #3 employee at Reply.io with 9+ years of experience in different fields of B2B Marketing. Her main areas of focus are SEO, content, marketing management, and business analysis. She is fond of working, traveling and sci-fi.