The Key to Success in SMB Sales? Trust.
From the moment Steven Munch introduces himself to a small business owner, he knows he has about 30 seconds before they tell him to get lost.
Rather than make a case for his product or company, he starts every conversation off with the same question: “If I had a magic wand and could help your business with just one thing, what would it be?”
It’s not a novel question, but Munch has been asking it for the past 20 years because it gets responses. In fact, he estimates he could write a book on all the different answers he’s heard. Some take a minute to reflect on the question, while others can be a little more colorful.
“I said: ‘Now that would be a trick. But now that you said that, it tells me you’re angry about something. ‘What is it you’re angry about?’”
“I [talked to a shop owner] in Philly ... and he said, ‘You can take your magic wand and stick it up your ass,’” Munch recalled from his days as an account executive at yellowbook, which provides an online directory of businesses.
You’d think the buyer would want nothing to do with you after a response like that, but to Munch, it meant an opening.
“I said: ‘Now that would be a trick. But now that you said that, it tells me you’re angry about something,’” Munch said. “‘What is it you’re angry about?’”
Munch discovered that yellowbook had botched the owner’s ad years ago and he was able to address those concerns to win him back. There’s a story like that behind every response, Munch said, and understanding those stories is crucial to building trust with the buyer in small and medium-sized business (SMB) sales.
4 Keys to Building Trust in SMB Sales
- Make your pitch about the buyer. You often have 30 seconds to convince the buyer not to hang up and the best way to do that is to tailor your pitch to their needs.
- Get the buyer talking about their challenges. The more you get them talking about themselves, the more curious they’ll be about your product.
- Use your notes to build confidence. Detailed notes show that you’re listening and can lend authority to your sales recommendation.
- Create urgency with your product. Get a demo or a trial of the product into the buyer’s hands right away to give them the confidence to make a purchase.
SMB buyers are inundated with pitches and any purchase they make could have a significant impact on their business. If it doesn’t work, it’s their livelihood — and sometimes their dream — on the line.
That’s why anything you say about your product is immediately met with distrust, said Munch, who’s now building out the SMB strategy at OMEGA Processing Solutions as its VP of sales. But if you take the time to learn about their challenges, you earn yourself more time.
Still, that’s just the first hurdle in SMB sales. Compared to enterprise sales, SMB sales have a shorter cycle and fewer buyers involved. The good news is, the deals are typically a lot less complicated and there are more potential customers. The bad news is, objections lurk around every stage of the buying experience. The key to success comes down to how good you are at building trust with that buyer.
Make Your Pitch About the Buyer
At first, Sam Tibebe wasn’t prepared for the number of objections he heard as an SMB sales development representative (SDR) for Seamless.AI.
The moment a buyer challenged how he got their phone number or told him they weren’t interested, he’d be “sweating bullets, stuttering my words and hanging up before they did,” Tibebe said. Over time, however, his training kicked in and he started to recognize patterns in the objections.
“If my point isn’t made in 30 seconds, I’ve already wasted 30 seconds of their time that I’m not entitled to.”
One of the biggest hurdles in SMB sales is overcoming the buyer’s initial skepticism. Sales reps often have 30 seconds to make their case and give them a reason to stay on the phone, said Tibebe, who’s now an account executive. The best way to do that is to keep the pitch focused on their needs.
“If my point isn’t made in 30 seconds, I’ve already wasted 30 seconds of their time that I’m not entitled to,” Tibebe said. “So it’s 30 seconds or bust. That’s the only way.”
As an SDR, Tibebe targeted sales leaders at companies between 11 and 100 employees. Seamless.AI provides an automated lead generation platform. His goal in the first 30 seconds isn’t to sell his product, though, but rather to help the buyer understand how he can help them.
One of the first steps he takes is to research the prospect and their industry. During this stage, he’ll cross-reference that information with his company’s buyer personas and use cases to identify relevant pain points and ways that Seamless.AI can solve them.
This helps him tailor the pitch to their needs. So, if he’s talking to a chief revenue officer for a tech company, he’ll emphasize the time reps waste searching for prospect contact information and how that affects revenue.
“Saying things like that to someone in that role, it should click immediately,” Tibebe said.
It’s also important not to overlook people in lower ranks within the company, Tibebe said. While you can close a deal faster with the CEO, employees in SMBs wear many hats. An SDR might have the ear of the sales leader in a small business because they’ll be the ones using the product.
The ‘Magic Wand’ Approach
At OMEGA Processing Solutions, Munch takes a slightly different approach. Munch’s company sells a payment tool and financial platform. His prospects include everyone from the self-employed landscaper to small shop owners to doctors and more.
Before Munch even starts prospecting, he segments his buyers based on their business’ seasonality. If you go to a landscaper in the summer, they’re not going to have time for your pitch no matter how useful your product is. But in the winter before their season starts, they’ll be more open to making a purchase, he said.
“Once you get their attention and strike a chord with them, the key is to say, ‘OK, how do I uncover a little bit more?’”
Once he reaches out to the buyer, he uses his magic wand question to get them talking about their challenges. Even if they tell them they don’t have time, it indicates that time is an issue for them. He’ll follow up and ask what they’d do if they had 10 hours back in their day.
If you get the buyer talking long enough, they’re going to want to know who you are and what company you work for, Munch said. That will make them more open to your pitch and your pitch will be more tailored to their experiences.
“Once you get their attention and strike a chord with them, the key is to say, ‘OK, how do I uncover a little bit more?’” Munch said.
Use Your Notes to Build Confidence in the Buyer
Once you pique the buyer’s interest, you have to earn their trust.
This is where discovery comes in. If you don’t spend enough time understanding the buyer’s pain points or jump straight into making a recommendation, they’re not going to buy your product, Munch said.
For them to make a purchase, the proposal needs to be a specific recommendation tailored to their needs with tangible outcomes. That’s why before Munch makes any recommendation to the buyer, his goal is to answer two key questions:
What will the buyer’s return on investment (ROI) be if they buy his product?
Where does the buyer want to be in the next three months, six months and year?
Answering the first question requires understanding the buyer’s pain points. For a payment processing solution, that might be asking how much time they spend on their financial transactions, as well as how that affects their business growth and personal life.
The ROI doesn’t always have to be financial, either, Munch said. It could be as simple as giving the owner 10 hours back in their life so they can spend time with their family.
The second question helps to determine how the product will fit in their business plans. Munch suggests focusing on short-term goals. Small business owners don’t have the same runway as enterprise companies — they need to see results immediately. And as 2020 showed, there are too many unknowns that you can’t address if you focus too far out in the future.
If you’re selling to a landscaper and you learn that they want to purchase three more trucks for their business, grow revenue by $40,000 and expand into a new city by 2022, then it’s easier to explain the immediate impact your product can make.
“You’re not basing things off your price. You’re not basing it off of your product. You’re basing things off their needs and their pain points and making a recommendation off the notes you take, and they have to make a decision.”
But just asking questions isn’t enough. Throughout the process, Munch takes bulleted notes on everything he learns on a single sheet. That piece of paper then acts as a prescription and becomes his secret weapon in building trust with the buyer.
Once he completes his discovery, he’ll text them a screenshot of his notes. This accomplishes two things — it shows the buyer that he paid attention to what they told him and it becomes a shared source of truth. Munch will then make his proposal based on those notes.
“You’re not basing things off your price. You’re not basing it off of your product,” Munch said. “You’re basing things off their needs and their pain points and making a recommendation off the notes you take, and they have to make a decision.”
It doesn’t have to be notes, either. The important thing is that you show them you’re an active listener and that your recommendation is based on what they told you, Tibebe said.
“If you don’t repeat what they told you and in plain old English how your platform helps that, then you’re wasting that opportunity,” Tibebe said.
Create Urgency With the Product
While you might have aced the first impression and earned the prospect’s trust with a personalized recommendation, you’re still likely to hear “No, thanks.”
That’s because small business owners are afraid to make decisions, Munch said. They’re often tightly budgeted and risk-averse to a fault. To convince them to make the leap, he’ll first ask if he’s given them enough information to make a decision.
“Then I shut up,” Munch said. “One of two things comes from that: Either ‘Yes, you shared enough. This has been great, here’s my decision.’ Or, ‘No, I still need this and this answer.’”
But there’s often a third response, he added, which is that they have heard enough and need time to think about it. This is where the SMB owner’s hesitancy rears its head. The key when that happens is to give them a taste of the solution as soon as possible.
“With SMB, if you say you’re going to do something, you have to do it ASAP.”
At Seamless.AI, Tibebe will often hear buyers ask him to send them an email with information on his product. He knows that’s just a deflection, so he’ll preempt it with a demo.
“I’ll give you the material before you ask for it, but I’ll also tell you that the best way to absorb that material is to watch [the product] first hand, specific to your needs,” Tibebe said.
The demo makes the solution seem more tangible and helps create more urgency for a deal.
If Munch is confident he’s addressed all of the buyer’s issues, he’ll offer to immediately sign them up for an onboarding session the next day and go through it with them. Sometimes they just need someone to help them put the platform into action and see results to feel comfortable.
“With SMB, if you say you’re going to do something, you have to do it ASAP,” Munch said. “If you don’t engage with them in the first 48 or 72 hours, they’ll have already forgotten what they bought and invested in. ... When they see that first bill, they’ll cancel it.”
Don’t Overlook the Trust You’ve Built
Still, the biggest difference maker in SMB sales is trust.
“You can click buttons, they can do a demo on their own time. The person involved is where the difference is made.”
Unlike enterprise sales where multiple stakeholders confer on a decision, SMB sales come down to just the rep and the decision-maker. If you don’t listen to the buyer, take good notes and tailor their experience, then you won’t get far in closing a deal.
“You can click buttons, they can do a demo on their own time. The person involved is where the difference is made,” Tibebe said. “It’s a partnership, it’s not just selling them a product. That makes it easy to sign.”