I recently had the opportunity to talk to a group of individuals who are focused on selling to small and medium size businesses. I was trying to give them a snapshot of the profile of the small business owner and why we are very different than the large, complex customers they typically serve. While one should never view all small businesses under the same lens there are some things that I know are typical with the small businesses I work with around the country. To begin, small businesses make buying decisions quickly and usually consider a number of factors. Here are a few.
The small business owner wants to have a close relationship with someone who understands small business operations and the challenges that we face. We don’t have large staffs of people and endless advisors so our resources become an extension of our operation. As a result, we tend to be very loyal. We don’t generally re-evaluate the relationship every year. We also want to know that we won’t get pushed aside when bigger customers make demands.
Ease of Doing Business
I think this is something that every business owner values in this fast-paced world but it is even more important to the small business owner. We like to have one point of contact, not lots of people with which we need to work. The small business owner does not need as many touch points. We don’t need lots of phone calls and meetings. We appreciate the attention, but prefer to be efficient.
We like to have products and services that give us just what we need, instead of endless options. For example, my insurance agent does the research and then gives us a couple of choices that are tailored to our needs. She does not throw all the information at us and expect that we will do the analysis. Making it easy is critical. That leads directly to the next factor.
If there is one thing that almost every small business owner I know lacks, it is time. Long hours. Nonexistent weekends. No personal time. As business owners we expect to spend most of our waking hours working, and we certainly can! Every entrepreneur knows that it takes a lot of sacrifice to build a business but we thrive on getting the work done no matter how many hours it takes. That’s why we place a huge value on having resources that save us time. For example, I went to renew a credit line recently. My banker took care of everything; the appraisal on property, connecting with my accountant for returns that were needed, financial statements from my advisor… everything. Literally, all I did was sign the final paperwork. Had the bank not made it easy, I might not have renewed the line.
Time savings is so important to me that it trumps price. I believe other small business owners might feel the same. Price is a factor but paying a little more is not an issue if it saves me time. I think this is somewhat different than the approach of some larger businesses. They have the resources to do the leg work, and might even prefer that their own staff handle things.
If you want to sell to small and medium size businesses, it is important to know what the business owner values and how he or she makes buying decisions. You would do the same if you were approaching a large customer. The big difference… the smaller operation may be a whole lot easier to work with and appreciate your efforts a whole lot more.