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Use Buyer-Based Selling To Engage The New SMB Buyer

©All Rights Reserve by PhotoSteve 101

This is part 5 and final article of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer-based modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base.

Prognosticators today abound on the demise of sales.  Not so fast.  While the notion of field sales shrinking for the SMB is a fact, it doesn’t quite mean the end of sales.  We’ve seen tremendous growth in the arena of Inside Sales over the past decades as the expense of dedicating field resources to SMB is no longer affordable as well as seismic shifts in buyer behaviors.  Where are we today?  The roles of sales in general and inside sales functions are struggling to adapt to the new psychology of the buyer and the new rules of engagements.  This is creating a clarion call among the Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 to attain deeper buyer-based marketing and sales capabilities for the SMB markets.

Success in expanding inside sales is highly dependent upon shifting to buyer-based models of selling that redesigns the roles and make up of inside sales departments.  Expanding the number of inside sales reps while not changing models of buyer conversations and engagements will just lead to more frustrated inside sales reps.  Far too often, who the SMB buyer is and understanding how and why they make purchasing decisions gets lost in the shuffle of statistics on number of dials, connections, and product pitches.  In a few of my qualitative research efforts, I’ve sat with frontline inside sales reps for a few hours.  I know and I get it – the grade that counts is meeting the quota numbers for dial and connections let alone revenue.  What the new breed of inside sales reps wants today is more engaging conversations with buyers and less focus on product pitches once they connect.

How To Make This Happen?

 In this series, we’ve focused on buyer-based modeling.  Modeling buyers today is the path towards creating models of buyer conversations that engage the SMB buyer today.  Let’s take a look at the path towards creating buyer-based selling models that transform inside sales to unified communicators engaging the SMB buyer:

Model the SMB Buyer Persona: researching and developing composite archetypes of various SMB business executives and owners can be a powerful tool for inside sales enablement.  Visual representation gets inside people beyond the wall of the computer screen and to thinking about who their buyers really are.

Model Buyergraphics: stopping at buyer personas today is a grave mistake.  Modeling a detailed set of SMB Buyergraphics gives your Inside Sales teams the contextual situations and predictive scenarios they need in order to engage the SMB buyer.  With the savvy SMB buyer adept at researching and making quick decisions, this approach gets Inside Sales teams to the same level.

Model Range of Interactions: the SMB buyer is rapidly changing their range of behaviors depending on the context of their situation.  The model of inside sales has been a simplistic idea that you hope to “catch” the buyer when he or she happens to be sitting by his or her desk phone.  In today’s world, SMB buyers are hurriedly going about running their businesses and not sitting still.  The range of behaviors includes their behavioral attributes associated with social networks, the web, while at customer locations, engaging with employees, and several others.  Accounting for these ranges of behaviors puts your organization in the right place at the right time -the SMB buyer’s time.

Model Unified Communicator: inside sales has lived with the equivalent association to telesales.  If you are still doing this today, this is another grave mistake.  The range of communications and engagement is becoming more expansive than ever.  The phone now is only one of several.  Building a range of available interactions albeit social, mobile, web, and etc. is needed to transform inside sales to a new role.  A new role of Unified Sales is critical to engaging the new SMB buyer who, as mentioned above, is expanding their range of how they behave to get information and meet goals.  Today’s buyer-based Unified Sales reps must have the skills and capacities to meet the SMB buyer where they are – at a critical moment in time.

Model Buyer-Based Selling: remapping processes is going to take some hard work.  Shifting from product-based and phone-based sales processes is in essence a cultural change within organizations.  And anyone who has ever been involved in managing culture change in large organizations knows the mountain that must be climbed.  However with the right gear, product and phone-based selling processes can be transformed to buyer-based conversational models.  Modeling new buyer-based selling processes will lead to incorporating newer technologies that enhance engaging the SMB buyer such as cloud-based technologies and tools.

Engaging today’s SMB buyer will take profound changes in how organizations market to and sell to this important growth segment.  It will take big thinking as opposed to the small thinking that sometimes has been accorded to the SMB markets.  Today’s SMB buyer is more technologically savvy, nimble in making changes, and certainly don’t think of themselves as small.  Meaning, that the Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 has to change their approach – and not let their own largeness get in the way.

(This 5 part series has been compiled into an eBook entitled, No Small Hurdle: Buyer-Based Marketing and Selling to the New SMB Buyer, for easy reading and sharing. Click on the hyperlinked title to receive.)

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Channeling Buyer-Based Experiences in SMB

© All Rights Reserved I-5 Design and Manufacturer

This is part 4 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer-based modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

When it comes to the SMB segment and the multiple sub-markets, it is just a plain fact that you cannot be everywhere.  We addressed the segmentation thought process crucial for buyer-based marketing to the SMB segment in the previous article, Grow SMB Revenues With Buyer-Based Marketing, as a means to know where to have a presence.  Therein lays the new buyer realities of today.  Having a presence that creates a gravitational pull of SMB buyers towards your organization is the new realty of mastering the SMB challenge.

SMB marketing and sales began to become more than just an afterthought in the early ‘90’s through the early 2000′s.  Considerable investments were made in establishing inside sales organizations and in outbound marketing activities specifically to reach the SMB base of customers and prospective buyers.  Newly created inside sales organizations endured the trials and tribulations of field sales entrenched infrastructure as well as the ownership battle of the mid-size customer gray area.  Marketing discovered that outbound tools for inside sales and for marketing to the SMB segment varied greatly from that of a focus on large field accounts.

In a span of 5-7 years we find ourselves in a drastically different world.  The notion of reaching buyers is becoming a huge hurdle to climb for those wedded to predominantly outbound activities related to inside sales.  As mentioned, establishing an inside sales function can be a sizable investment.  The Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 today find themselves with inside sales units loaded with personnel, technology, software, and etc. that were installed and aimed at outbound efforts.  What we now have is the challenge of turning on a dime to repurpose inside sales and marketing support to at least gain balance in inbound marketing while succeeding at a level of outbound demand generation as well.

This has more to do with transformation shifts in buyer behaviors with new technologies being the driving force behind these changes.  What is profound is that this is more than the labels of the elusive, invisible, or buyer 2.0.  No, they didn’t go anywhere and they are not hiding.    Nor, should we be of the mind that buyers are now just empowered – as if sellers gave them the empowerment.  Buyers today – with SMB buyers a significant part of this picture – are creating new ways of working and conducting business.  Here’s the smell the coffee moment for sellers: SMB buyers, in addition to larger accounts, are creating a new world of buyer-driven economies whereby as sellers – if you do not fit or adapt – it is a world in which you will not be participating within.

While I may be seemingly digressing here, I do so to make a very salient point.  SMB buyers are adapting new technologies in the entrepreneurial fashion they have started their business with in the first place.  Unburdened by large scale infrastructures, they can see how to make new uses of technologies nimbly and drive new ways of conducting business as well as expand their own customer bases.  SMB businesses, not so surprisingly, may be surpassing larger enterprises in their adoption of new technologies for interacting with buyers.

What Does This All Mean?

If you are part of a larger enterprise marketing to SMB buyers, what this all points to is a higher stakes challenge.  Expectations on buyer experience are being renewed at a constant rate for the reasons mentioned above.  Many of today’s new technologies, which for the most part had their original invention in non-business pursuits, have balanced the equation.  While larger enterprises enjoyed an advantage in acquiring newer technologies over that of SMB businesses, this may no longer be true.  In fact, the opposite in many cases may be true with SMB businesses able to leap frog into newer technologies as cost factors continue to be driven lower.

With this being the case, larger enterprises need to focus on creating seamless buyer-based experiences that allow SMB businesses to act quickly, make choices, and do so in the channels they prefer.  This applies to both inbound and outbound efforts.  A key focus for inbound efforts is that of enriching the buyer experience.  Darren Pleasance, a Principal with McKinsey & Company, recently covered this topic in an excellent article entitled, Serious about SMB experience?  Focus on your web site, on McKinsey’s Chief Marketing & Sales Officer Forum site.  Darren mentions the importance of the web site experience, providing the ability to buy seamlessly through multiple channels, and investing in post-purchase experiences as keys to success in the SMB segment.  All of these contributing to enriched buyer experiences.  The core of SMB buyer-based marketing and selling will not only be the web site as Darren articulates, but I believe the totality of the buyer experience now becoming the driving force behind how SMB buyers choose.

This brings us back to outbound.  Does this mean inside sales and other outbound activities will simply go away?  Far from it I believe.  A fundamental shift however needs to take place in how organizations view and orient their outbound efforts such as inside sales.  This shift relates to transforming from a tools-based approach to a buyer-based experience approach.  Here’s the voice of one SMB business executive articulating this point:

“The thing that kills you is that you get what you need from the web site but contacting them directly is a whole different matter.  It’s as if they are clueless that I may have visited their site and got information to review.  On top of that, I get calls from their people saying they are my account manager.  Really?  Then how come they don’t know that I talked to someone in their company already?” 

This exemplifies what happens when organizations fail to connect their inbound activities with outbound activities in SMB buyer-based marketing and selling.  On the other hand, connecting the two tightly enriches the experience as this SMB business owner says:

“I was really impressed to be honest.  I went on the site and found a few items I wanted to read so downloaded them.  I got a call from the company; his name was Steve, first acknowledging that I had downloaded the papers and then asking if I had questions.  We wound up having a discussion on some of things we’ve been working on.  Wasn’t pushy or anything like that.”

To create impressive buyer experiences, this integration of inbound and outbound cannot be ignored.  While the shiny object these days is inbound and the incessant promotion of content marketing, for some products and services, the ultimate deciding factor will continue to come down to the buyer conversation taking place.  One thing we can count on is that more and more SMB buyers today come to table ready for a conversation – are you?

Next Up: Closing the deal in SMB with Buyer-Based Selling

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How To Get To Know The New SMB Buyer

©All rights Reserved Peter Schofield

This is part 2 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

In the first article of this series, we visited two new realities.  One, that many Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 organizations are turning a focused eye towards growing their SMB customer and revenue base.  With revenue growth potential shrinking in larger strategic accounts due to budget and pricing pressures, many are dedicating attention and resources with more determination than in the past.  The second reality is that they are finding a very different buyer this time around than in the past.  Simply put, SMB buyers are more social, more sophisticated, more connected, and are transforming their buying behaviors at an accelerated pace.  New technologies opening their world to advantages only once afforded to large enterprises.

Waking up to these new realities has set up another challenge for executive leaders.  That is of how to get to know the new SMB buyer.  Here’s how one sales executive put this to me recently:

“One of the things we realized is that we have got to get to know our SMB customers.  If you keep in mind that we haven’t really dedicated much resource to this area, then we are lacking in knowledge per se’.  We’ve got to find out what is important to them versus just giving them some generic sales pitch.”

This is a very salient point for many organizations tend to view the SMB as a whole segment in of itself.  The reality is that the SMB is highly fragmented and consists of many layers of sub-market segments.  Getting to know what makes SMB buyers tick is, by no means, as easy as saying this is your SMB buyer.  Layer on top of this the enormous changes in buyer behavior, the invisibility of SMB buyers in their sourcing for information, and new empowering technologies makes this endeavor a higher mountain to climb.  It is no wonder many executives are walking out of their meetings where SMB growth is identified as a top priority saying – now what?

Getting To Know The New SMB Buyer

The first tough challenge is realizing that viewing the SMB as a single market and that rudimentary means of segmenting by employee size and revenue figures are not going to result in the understanding needed.  While vertical segmentation is of significant help, what is paramount is knowledge of how these sub-markets and buyers within behave.  What are steps that executives can take to understand the new SMB buyer?

Buyer Research: This has to be a clear mission.  Getting to know the new SMB buyer is going to take some level of buyer research.  It is going to take the integrated approach of committing to both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand the full 360 degrees of the new SMB buyer.

Buyer Modeling: Depending on the degree of fragmentation in sub-markets, powerful buyer modeling can be an extensive exercise.  However, one well-worth the upfront investment to get to know the new SMB buyer in ways that transforms efforts into an order of magnitude competitive advantage.  There are several areas of modeling that by understanding them deeply, can make your organization relevant to buyers and core to their problem-solving:

Buyer Persona Modeling: What is important here is not to model the single archetypal buyer but to model the new levels of interactions buyers are having with newly formed ecosystems and networks.  They may be SMB but they are growing exponentially and organically by creating new ecosystems.  Buyer persona modeling represents composite archetypes based on behavioral research with a focus on identifying critical goals that drive buyer behaviors.

Buyer Scenario Modeling: To get a handle on the problems SMB buyers face and what confronts them, modeling buying scenarios can give your marketing and sales teams insight into how to be relevant.  Additionally, this gives you the ability to address fragmentation and identify sub-market segments that have the best optimal scenarios to be part of the SMB buyer’s solution.

Buyer Decision Modeling: How SMB buyers are making purchase decisions today is changing so fast and by sub-markets that not monitoring this aspect of a SMB strategy can put an organization behind the curve.  While looking at the buyer decision journey can be fruitful, in my qualitative research I’ve noted how the new SMB buyers are adept at more ad-hoc decision-making.  Furthermore, with the rise of ecosystems and networks, collaborative efforts in making purchase decisions are not so neatly streamlined.  Newer technologies are also making purchase decisions more decentralized than ever – making fragmentation on this issue even more complex.

Buyer Value Modeling:  SMB buyers’ value varies widely by sub-market segments.   Gaining insight and modeling how these values operate in their day-to-day world can help you to tailor offerings and communications to fit specific sub-market segments.  Depending on the industry and markets, values in the SMB take on a deeper emotive texture and can be a deciding factor in purchase decisions.

Avoid Big Data Trap

With the rise of big data, there will be a tendency to try and “cut the numbers” every which way to make sense of the SMB market challenge.  When dealing with 5,000 SMB accounts to 150,000 SMB accounts, the tasks of getting to know these SMB buyers at a deeper level can look downright daunting.  Analytics will play an important role towards reaching understanding.  I also contend and advocate that qualitative and predictive buyer modeling is essential to integrate into the mix of discovering the new SMB buyer of today.  Buyer behavior within the SMB world is rapidly changing.  A reasonable assumption can be made that in some SMB sub-market segments it is changing at a faster pace than that of larger organizations.

The combined use of analytics and predictive buyer modeling can yield an insightful picture into how these new behaviors translate into uncovering why buyers make purchase decisions.  And, get closer to the holy grail of uncovering the reasons why they would change.

Next Up: The Importance of Buyer-Based Marketing in SMB

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Your Top Priority Is Growing The SMB Revenue Base – Now What?

 

Do Your Research Before You Pick Up The Phone © All Rights Reserved Kenny Madden

This is part 1 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of target buyer modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

As we continue to come out of the deep freeze over the last few years, we are beginning to see encouraging signs of an economic recovery.  However, the purse strings are still drawn tight and new patterns of buying has created an atmosphere of even more exacting pricing pressures from enterprise-wide level buyers and accounts.  This means less room for revenue growth to come directly from the fabled 20-30 percent of large customers who typically have made up 70-80 percent of total revenues.  This is how a VP of Sales in the software industry put it to me recently in my research:

“Here is what it looks like…we are actually selling more of our product into our larger accounts than ever before….but…over the last three years we’ve faced stiffer competition that has driven our pricing down.  So the net-net has been that we are just holding on as best we can to these larger accounts.  Another words, we are not getting significant real revenue growth from them.”

It is highly likely that this refrain is being repeated across many Fortune 1000, Global 2000, and even Inc. 500 listed companies across the globe.  With revenue growth opportunities shrinking among their large accounts, senior leaders in these organizations are turning a focused eye towards the highly sought after small and mid-size business segment.  For instance, in the highly compettive world of IT Products and Services, both HP and IBM made substantial investments and strategic moves in 2011 to target the SMB segment.  Challenging Dell and its’ low cost entry strategy for small to mid-size businesses.

A New Challenge And A New Frontier

There is good reason for Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 companies to target revenue growth from the SMB segment.  It is one of the fastest growing segments and traditionally has been coming out of a recession.  It also has proven to be lucrative when you consider that actual contribution margin percentages are much richer per sale when compared to large accounts.  It is little surprise that senior executives have shifted at least one eye towards expanding their SMB customer base and tapping into the revenue growth potential that can exists.

While targeting or at least accounting for the SMB segment is not a new idea to larger enterprises, this time around they are waking up to new buyer realities.  Buyer behaviors continue to change rapidly and these new behaviors are associated with largely buyer-driven changes.  What is confronting those wanting to achieve revenue growth from SMB buyers and companies is that they may know very little about these buyers and companies.  How to market to SMB buyers and companies becoming one of the hot priority items showing up on the agenda of many large enterprise management meetings being held daily, weekly, or monthly.  As one Senior VP of Sales and Markerting in IT pointed out to me recently:

“I am almost afraid to admit that we may have taken the SME (my notation: some executives refer to SMB as SME – small and mid-size enterprises) businesses for granted all these years.  We never really moved beyond segmenting by employee size and revenue so we really don’t know a lot about SME’s as we should.  It’s easy say you want to target them but planning how to target them is basically a whole new ball game for us.”

Because little knowledge may exist about SMB businesses and buyers, there are perhaps more assumptions being made about SMB than for larger accounts.  Generalized perceptions and preconceived notions run rampant in the halls and meeting rooms of larger enterprises attempting to figure out how to market to SMB segments.  There is what I call a “definition churn” that can happen when knowledge is found wanting – new definitions, classifications, segmentations, and etc. begin to appear every 3, 6, 9, or 12 months.  Moving around 1,000’s of accounts and prospects in virtual databases to new buckets created for employee size, revenue size, product targets, and verticals.

Unprecedented Transformation Occurring

In the past, working with these definitions may have been sufficient.  Looking ahead into the future - and the near future at that – these definitions alone will no doubt prove to be limiting and even detrimental to growth.  We are experiencing an unprecedented transformation in the world of business with new buyer-driven economies, ecosystems, networks, and communications emerging constantly – making understanding of SMB buyers and companies that may have been attained even as little 3 to 5 years ago nearly obsolete.

For many large enterprise organizations that show up on the famed Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 lists, growing the SMB customer base may be their number one, or at least in the top five, priority.  It is also, as a result of new buyer realities that are emerging, their number one challenge.  To tackle both angles of this two-sided coin, gaining deeper layers of understanding about SMB buyers and companies will need to get on these same priority lists.

Next Up: Understanding New Buyer Realities In SMB

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