Small business owners are a special breed. They work hard, so they need their service providers to work hard for them. If your business is built to serve small businesses, you'll need a sales approach designed to address their main concerns head-on.
Below are six tips that will help you connect with small business owners, keep them happy and build long-standing relationships that can lead to valuable referrals.
1. Demonstrate your value
Money tends to be tight for small businesses. Owners constantly worry about covering their expenses and earning some kind of a profit. Though they were willing to take a leap of faith and start their own business, they may have little appetite for risk left over.
This means that proving your value is critical. Testimonials, trustworthy reviews, guarantees and even third-party verifications all go a long way toward convincing a small business owner that you will indeed deliver on your promises. If there's any doubt in their mind, they'll probably put your brochure on the shelf.
2. Follow through
This ties in to the last point. Your sales promises all have to be kept, or better yet, exceeded. Make sure that your sales enthusiasm carries over into service enthusiasm or repeat business will drop to zero.
Small business owners watch expenses carefully, and if they aren't getting immediate returns, they'll be quick to cut you out. The grace period after the sale will be quite short, so make it count. Follow through and follow up to seal the deal.
3. Help them today
Long-term benefits are nice for a well-funded organization that can weather quarterly ups and downs. A small business generally can't do this, so investing for long-term gain is difficult if there are no short-term gains to be seen. Make sure your value timeline aligns with the resources of your small business customers.
If your offering requires long-term investment, you'll have to work that much harder to demonstrate that it's worth the wait. You'll also have to be adaptable to their financial constraints in the interim, which may mean delayed payments or other creative solutions.
4. Make referrals easy
Small business owners are a community and they trust one another. If your solution helps one owner who's willing to say so, others will be inclined to give you a shot. Make it easy for your customers to spread the word (electronically or otherwise) and provide referrals so that you can get a foot in the door with new prospects and capitalize on your successes.
5. Show how you'll help them growAll small business owners dream of growth and stability. If what you're selling ties into growth, be sure to highlight that fact. Since many of your prospects are constantly worried about generating enough business, growth means security.
If your service will bring growth and security, you'll be a savior to your customers. It's also helpful to highlight customer retention benefits. Repeat business is huge for small operations, so show them how your product or service keeps familiar faces coming through the door.
6. Build relationships
You'll usually be dealing with a single person (the owner) when you work with small businesses. It's rare to have access to the top dog in most industries, so make the most of this special opportunity and build a relationship.
If you become more than just an expense to the owner -- if you're dependable, understanding, and flexible -- you'll set yourself up for a long-term relationship that withstands even the off-season..
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