SM: You mentioned a little about the interest on behalf of vendors to sell into small and medium business. Can you discuss the base differences between enterprise selling and SME selling? SME is hot right now.
AS: SME is huge because companies are realizing you can get to the first $100M selling to enterprises, but to get larger growth you have to sell to smaller companies.
SM: Smaller companies also represent a faster sales cycle.
AS: Indeed, and a more predictable one, which is good for shareholders, board directors and venture capitalists. Getting back to your question, I will answer it making some broad generalizations. An enterprise is a very large company with lots and lots of people, typically multiple decision makers in a sales process; sometimes they are in different locations. Typically the deals are much larger in size than a SME type of sale. The sales process is typically face to face, there are field sales offices around the world that serve the customer base in that locality, normally with the assistance of a dedicated technical person or team. There are customized demos done on site, there are numerous meetings, and a complex sales cycle. Contrasting that with SME, which is higher volume, it is typically a point sale where there are far fewer decision makers, shorter sales cycles, and an increased number of deals. It requires a completely different sales approach.
SM: A couple of thoughts come to mind, based on my experience marketing and selling technology for a long time. Very often, if you look at an enterprise, unless you have to sell to a central person like a CIO or CTO’s office, these branch offices or multiple locations often function like SME offices. Have you found that to be true?
AS: Yes, often they do, if they have their own budget, and if what you are selling matches their need. Some departmental heads have their own P&L, and they are completely responsible for their own decision making. Sometimes these products go across the enterprise, and you cannot make these decisions for the department alone.
SM: Exactly. You can penetrate the account to some degree, but you must hit the central decision body. When you are dealing with enterprise sales, it is really not very efficient to go about with a bag visiting everybody without doing the some sort of qualification in advance. I know advance qualification has been part of your philosophy. Let’s discuss a bit more about that process.
AS: It is really a matter of defining your sales process, and understanding what happens at each stage. Very often, especially in the early stages of a sales cycle, there are many things you can do without a face to face visit. You have a website to leverage, and you can offer a free trial. You have the telephone, and all kinds of web based technologies to assist you in demonstrating the product’s functionality.
Of course you can answer questions and move the prospect along in a way that meets what they need to understand as part of their buying process.
Only when it makes sense to spend the money with a qualified prospect who might represent a certain deal size which would make your sale profitable would you then get on an airplane, or even get in your car and drive down the street, to spend half a day with a prospect.
SM: What are you recommending as sales methodologies that are specifically beneficial for the SME, now that SME is becoming a hot area of the market?
AS: Again, we are talking about shorter sales cycles, higher volume, and more profitable selling. Anything you can do to make the sale cost effective, and that means communicating in a way which is meaningful to the customer and getting to the heart of what their business issues are, and what their business results need to be. Using whatever means of making your product and your own self visible.
You can create a relationship which creates engagement. That means you use a very different approach from the old school way of selling. It also means a lot of tracking and measuring, keeping track of what you have said and where you are in the sales process for hundreds and hundreds of accounts. It is not something you can do with a Post It note next to your computer.