Sales to Small Business is Different than selling to Large Business

It’s a small business change that can control your success selling to small businesses. For that matter, it can effect your success with large businesses, too.

Target, or Partner?

I was speaking with a client yesterday. One of the things we handle for him is sales. We prospect for him peripherally, but specifically we do his “closing”; prospects come in, and we uncover needs and decide what to sell them. We do that for his existing clients on the upsell side of things, too.

That might sound icky. It isn’t. Both the client and I believe that the best way to serve customers is to understand enough about them that you really can serve them. Sales becomes service. Yes, Mr. Customer, we make more money because we sold you more services. But we sold you the right services and your business prospered. That’s not a bad thing, it’s good. It’s Business.

Speaking that directly tends to endear me to people who are secure in their own minds, and chase away people who are less secure or less successful. But there’s more to it than that: People who are looking for partners enjoy hearing the truth, while people who feel like there’s a target on their back and you’re trying to hit it just want to be told what they want to hear.

At large businesses, people tend to be more secure, and more willing to be consulted with during the sales process. This is because their roles are defined narrowly and they can take your advice into account in ways that are specific enough that you aren’t a threat. Small businesses, on the other hand, operate from a different place. Either literally or metaphorically, they’re spending their own money on whatever they buy from you, so feeling “sold to” makes them unhappy . . . even if you’re on their side. Even if somewhere deep down inside they know it.

What Do You Sell?

The funny thing is, most of us can’t answer that question. Whatever your product or service is, somewhere on the continuum you sell service customer service, too. But where? And when do you care . . . and when do you stop caring? Does Apple sell customer service, or merely a bunch of really cool products? And when does that perception change, and for whom? Certainly Apple is ignoring customer service when they sell you a Retina Display iPad or Macbook, knowing full well that you can’t actually use it. But does that matter? It’s Cool!

The reason Steve Jobs was such a fantastic salesperson is that he knew who to be, and when; one size doesn’t fit all unless your sales are so large that the outcome of any particular sales event don’t matter. Or unless you’re as cool as Apple.

What are you doing to change the way you sell? If you’re finding it hard to sell to small business it’s because small business thinks . . . like small business.

You want to talk about this, right? Me too.

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