Small Business vs. Corporate Sales Approach
A little over a year ago I quit my what could only be described as a corporate sales job in the telecommunications and mobile space and entered the world of marketing and selling to local businesses in rural Missouri.
In the beginning I was a little concerned about being able to translate the approaches that I had used in the past to generating new business and putting together proposals that were valuable for my customers.
There are many differences that you have to keep in mind when dealing with small businesses as compared to dealing with large or medium sized companies, here are 5 that I have found very useful to keep in mind when my sales team or myself is planning on meeting with a local business:
- Let’s start with an obvious one, in most cases you will be dealing directly with the owner meaning if this person is spending money it is coming directly from their own pocket. This causes a completely different mentality than someone spending someone else’s money like in a corporate environment.
- Education is key but do not overwhelm, unlike in corporate business environments where there are typically teams of people to work on individual projects or even people dedicated to just one specific topic in a small business people are much less specialized and resources are much tighter. Keep your “pitch” on topic and show the value points. Examples of how it relates to their business is key to making the point fast.
- Expect to be more flexible with appointment times even when the customer is interested. One of the things that I had the hardest time with when first moving into the small business sales world was the fact that things were not as structured when it came to meetings and appointments. Even with your best clients things can get busy and they have to cancel at the last minute. Be respectful that they are running a business and do not have a large team to do so.
- Do not be a salesman. Everyone is trying to sell something to them everyday. If you are coming into to their business and are trying to be the slick sales guy in a suit, their automatic “no” response will prevail. If you are trying to be a local person and dealing with the local community, let your personality and friendship with these potential customers be one of the selling factors in your product.
- One major difference I found between the corporate sales world and the local business world is that you cannot expect the customer to make themselves available for you after hours. In my past life much time was spent on customer calls at all hours of the night, it was expected that employees on both sides put the hours in to get projects engineered and sold. Local businesses have a different focus and have more structured business hours. Many have no interest in the “wine and dine” of the corporate world and would prefer that time with their family. Make sure you factor this in when you are pushing for time on their schedule.
For those of you that may be making the leap from selling to large businesses as compared to the core of American business, which is the small business, some of the above items may help when you think about your approach.