Five Tips To Increase Your SMB Success
The SMB segment continues to grow in importance to solutions providers, IT vendors, and distributors. In many cases, VARs are best positioned to be the IT staff for SMBs, providing services and support that manufacturers either can't or don't wish to provide. Solutions providers provide the delivery infrastructure and expertise to tailor systems to the specific needs of SMB, and that is becoming clear to more and more vendors each day.
Gartner projects that worldwide SMB IT spending will reach more than $450 billion (or 3% of these companies' revenue) this year, which should increase the number of new products and services targeted to this segment. How can VARs best utilize their expertise to capture more SMB revenue? Based on discussions with many solutions providers, industry analysts, and distributors, I've assembled five tips to help grow SMB sales.
Tip 1: Identify All Of The Decision Makers
While enterprise customers typically have several identifiable individuals responsible for purchases, it's not always clear who makes the decisions in small businesses. With the term SMB covering everything from single-employee companies to 1,000-employee corporations, I've heard several stories of VARs that were far along in the sales process when a silent partner or spouse (whose parents controlled the business' capital) nixed the deal. Clarify the decision makers on the first call (or if you haven't worked with them in a few months), and learn as much as possible about the company before investing your engineering or capital resources in a solution design.
Tip 2: Invest In Industry Or Market Experts
Many solutions providers are prospering as experts in a particular vertical market. Having industry-experienced sales professionals that can speak the particular market's language and know the organizations, networking groups, and compliance issues can help secure additional sales. For example, I've encountered several VARs with former hospital IT professionals on staff who are successfully selling healthcare solutions to physicians' offices, hospitals, and HMOs (health maintenance organizations).
Tip 3: Leverage Existing IT Systems
Solutions providers should try to utilize a client's current technology in new solution proposals. While it's not always possible to include older components in some situations, if you can incorporate an SMB's current MFPs (multifunction peripherals), for example, in a new ECM (enterprise content management) solution, it may be a cost-effective way for them to justify the purchase. If you can save them $1,000 or more on new document imaging scanners, you may increase your chances of closing the sale and improve your standing as a valued partner.
Tip 4: Consider Managed Services
SMBs are receptive to the benefits of managed services. Competition and compliance are forcing smaller companies to increase their investments in technology, without the same level of IT resources as enterprise organizations. It's a great proposition for your small customers if you can offer the same technology and proactive support for a monthly charge that's a fraction of the cost of hiring additional technical staff and investing in hardware and software. A number of vendors and distributors are offering hosted managed services, which allows VARs to offer the technology without a significant investment. You may even wish to partner to deliver managed services in order to keep competitors from acquiring your customers.
Tip 5: Provide Scalable Offerings
Just because your customers aren't Fortune 1000 members today doesn't mean they couldn't be in five years. Investigate the growth projections for your SMB clients and understand how technology factors into their three-to-five-year business plans. Offering the solution that can help them attain those goals will help clinch the sale.