Document 188289

How to Sell to SMBs
in the Future
The SMB change –
as competition increases and new engagement models are created........3
What the SMB wants................................................................................4
What sales teams need to do differently...................................................5
The increasing role of the sales manager............................................... 10
What tools are needed?......................................................................... 11
What training is needed?........................................................................ 13
Transitioning to the sales force of the future........................................... 13
Summary................................................................................................ 15
Unlike corporate purchasing departments, most small and
medium-sized businesses (SMBs) act more like consumers
in their buying behavior. Using the power of social and
other feedback networks to guide their purchases, they
are becoming better informed and will continue to demand
more choices, custom configurations, immediate delivery
and pricing flexibility.
To respond, SMBs will need to make significant changes in
their engagement models. Moving into the future, SMBs will
face increasing competition from well-funded companies using
new and different customer engagement models, including:
The SMB change – as competition
increases and new engagement models are
• Same-day home delivery will expand and be both a
competitor and enabler for SMBs.
Consumers will not only continue to dictate custom
and semi-custom solutions, settling only for commodity
provisioning when price becomes the key driver, but also
will continue to exert pressure during purchase negotiations.
More Competition than Ever
More Choices than Ever
Want Insight from Trusted Source
Don’t Want to Do It Themselves
Desperate for Leads and
• Big-box companies will remain, with walk-in retail
business fairly flat and growth expected from ‘order online, pick up in store today’.
• Partnership opportunities with Amazon (and others) will
create new opportunities and change the consumer
engagement model.
• Consolidation will continue. Traditional big-box
companies are acquiring service providers to broaden
their offerings. For example, in 2012 the US Home Depot
chain acquired Redbeacon to expand its reach into the
home services market. They are now directly competing
with SMBs that are also their best customers.
• Direct consumer engagement models will eliminate
intermediaries. If a producer and a consumer can
immediately connect and do business together using a
mobile app or web portal, then traditional intermediaries
become irrelevant.
New aggregators, intermediaries and big-box companies
expanding into services, direct and same day delivery will
combine to create a very competitive future marketplace
for SMBs.
What the SMB wants
By 2016, SMBs will see significant choice increases,
primarily in the areas of ICT (information, communication
and technology) and within sales, marketing and advertising
services. Normally choice is a good thing, but SMBs are
becoming increasingly overwhelmed and want a trusted
adviser to guide them. Conversely, they are suspicious
of companies that want to push product or use primitive
needs/solutions selling techniques.
The optimal sales experience:
• offers a uniquely valuable perspective on the market.
• helps to navigate alternatives.
• provides on-going advice or consultation.
• helps avoid potential land mines.
• educates on new issues and outcomes.
• is easy to buy from.
One way to significantly improve the trust rating is with
value-added changes to the sales experience. SMBs indicate
they are hungry for valuable, unbiased information. 68% of
SMBs use the Internet often or very often to find information
on products and services they want to buy. 58% frequently
look for business management advice to help them better
run their companies. Based on multiple sources, SMBs are
forecasted to embrace value and insight.
In a study done by the Corporate Executive Board, the point
of sales experience, at 53%, has the highest contribution
to business customer loyalty. In this study, the business
decision maker and decision influencer prioritized what is
most important within the “sales experience.”
• is provided by a company with widespread support from
others they listen to.
SMBs want new sales approaches that add value, not just
extract revenue.
What sales teams need to do differently
As ongoing changes in consumer buying behavior force
SMBs to change as well, they will need to adopt new and
innovative customer engagement models. There are nine
essential components needed for successful selling to
1. Obtain insight to become the most knowledgeable
about the market, customers, trends, competition and
Insight sources can include internal resources, external
market sources and third-party suppliers. Establishing
segment specialists within the organization is a practical way
to speed the initial supply of insight to a selling organization,
and keep current on changing trends. Insight for this sector
can include, but is not limited to:
• Consumer purchase preferences relevant to the SMB
• Competitive trends that affect the SMBs current
customer engagement model.
• General and business trends that will impact the SMBs
• Ways to achieve operational excellence and efficiency.
• Best practices in similar, but non-competitive businesses.
• Specific recommendations that solve challenges or bring
opportunities for the SMB.
• Third-party evaluations of SMB choices.
• Alerts on incompatibilities between various technologies
and equipment.
Because insight is typically much broader than just the
products and services sold, it has a much higher intrinsic
2. Segment the customer and potential customer for
optimal results and internal efficiency
Because of the diversity within the SMB sector, a single
unified approach will seldom be effective. SMBs want
vendors/representatives that know what they are facing, and
no two SMBs are alike. Still, with this diversity it’s impossible
to have a totally customized approach for each of the
millions of SMBs. The answer is segmentation. While there
are hundreds of ways to segment the SMB marketplace,
many of these ways are very difficult to implement
effectively. Instead, by using a much simpler method with
four categories of segmentation, we can balance the
specialization needed with an executable approach:
A.SMB Category: Knowing the primary and secondary
business focus of an SMB, as well as what end user
needs it serves, is an imperative. For example, HVAC
contractors and Cosmetic Dentistry have little in
common, and using a ‘one size fits all’ will be quickly
dismissed by the business owner/manager.
B. SMB Size: There are many different ways to measure
size, but number of employees seems to be a simple yet
rich approach.
C.SMB Buying Preferences: Changes in customer
engagement models going into 2016 will create a very
dynamic situation. Some SMBs will want to see someone
in person, others will be better served with significantly
increased digital or written communication.
D.SMB Geography: Regional and local differences can
be exploited for better customer service and better sales
organization efficiencies.
3. Organize sales efforts to efficiently align with these
In this future state model, each key component of the sales
organization has a primary and interactive role to perform.
A. Team Selling
Recommended Approach: Insight selling/consultative
relationship with assigned SMB category and size.
A team selling approach with insight selling is the most
effective way to obtain and retain the largest customers.
Surveys indicate this sales approach has increased 30%
over the last five years, and growth is expected to
continue. Coordinated resources will ensure a value
added sales experience for this “most sophisticated”
customer grouping.
B. Field rep / account manager assigned to customer
(field rep is also known as face-to-face or premise
Recommended Approach: Insight selling/consultative
relationship with assigned SMB categories and
A permanently assigned rep with insight sales approach
fosters an individual trusted advisor relationship between
the sales rep and the SMB owner/manager. Under this
approach, the rep will have:
• An increased understanding of the customer and their
needs through a broader experience.
• A single point of customer contact, selling a portfolio of
• The ability to proactively identify customer issues and
propose solutions.
• Access to knowledge (e.g., specialists’ leading practices)
with formalized knowledge management structure.
Under the insight sales approach, the evolved sales force
focuses on account (or business) selling and is comprised
of small, highly-qualified marketing teams. It actively
manages the profitability of the account by owning a P&L
as well as having a larger portfolio under its belt.
C. Outbound and in-bound call centers
Recommended Approach: Insight selling coupled with
A localization approach is a more flexible and facilitates
more ownership down the chain, providing for a more
intimate understanding of the customer. Such a structure
will foster:
• Go-to-market approaches tailored to the local
• Decentralized decision-making based on local trends
(e.g., calendar/events, demographics, competition).
• Greater regional responsibility and support of multi brand selling.
Under this model, the sales force is evolving from a
larger centralized call center to a locally-focused model,
increasing sales force accountability on multiple fronts.
They can contribute to the customer’s success by
becoming more aware of regionalized differences, key
competitors and evolving customer engagement models.
They can also be better trained to recommend semi custom product and service offerings – something the
SMB desires. An outbound call center works best when
adopting the mindset of “appointment setting.” SMBs
appreciate this approach, but do not respond well to
The inbound/outbound call center of the future dovetails
seamlessly into the face-to-face channel. It provides team
selling as needed, such as when an onsite visit is optimal.
D. Retail
Recommended Approach: Insight selling coupled with
immediate solutions selling.
A growing number of large corporations are adapting their
consumer retail stores to cater to the needs of SMBs.
According to a recent survey, through 2013, 56-percent of
global communications companies plan to use their stores
to target small businesses, and 24-percent will use their
stores to target medium businesses.
A retail environment if conveniently located, can add
richness to the overall customer engagement model for
the SMB. The key here (as with other channels) is to offer
a level of specialization that meets the needs of the SMB.
Sales associates at the retail store need to be well versed on
who and when to hand over an SMB for specialized insight
selling, and have an eye toward urgency.
E. Digital Direct Sales: E-tailing and SMB business
center / insight portals
There is a formidable scale to servicing the needs of millions
of SMBs. Digital channels can efficiently help address this
and sell directly to the SMBs that prefer this engagement
In addition, as the SMB sector experiences significant
change, there is a commercial education aspect to this
and the need to transfer large amounts of information,
insight, advice and peer support to the SMB. One way to
do this is with a customer business center or insight portal.
Quickly evolving into indispensable arenas where ideas and
solutions are found and exchanged, SMBs are benefiting
by obtaining very specific and relevant information about
how better to run their business. For the sponsor of these
portals, it becomes an extension of the sales experience
and a very efficient method of improving loyalty. Today there
a just a few portals available, but several companies are
working hard to attract SMB participation into their current
social sites or establish dedicated business social platforms.
Having said that, even Google does not exclusively direct
self-service any longer, relying on a combination of face to
face, call center, partners and self-service channels.
F. Third-party / resellers
Recommended Approach: Insight selling.
It’s quite challenging for a corporation to create a productive
ecosystem of reseller channels that adds value into the sales
experience. Google and some others have been recently
putting a lot of effort into driving robast partner sales.
4. Adopt a fully supported insight sales approach
Many of the companies are still approaching SMBs using
transactional selling (aka product selling). Some companies
have progressed to solutions or services selling. But in
many cases they are still coupling this with a form of product
selling, especially at closing.
A new approach that shows promise is insight selling.
Some are critical to say this is a coat of paint on an old
approach, but we have seen real progress by companies
adopting this – especially when it’s adopted in the sales
organization and across the broader customer engagement
team organization.
A recent study confirms that many SMBs have completed
60% of their purchase insight gathering before a sales
consultant makes the first call. The goal here and what
SMBs want, is someone to help them earlier in the buying
process. With insight selling, we can become indispensable
to the SMB.
5. Bring a broader mix of products and solutions that
can be customized to fit diverse needs
Certainly the product mix and the sales approaches have a
strong hand and glove relationship. SMBs have expressly
indicated they do not like to be approached with a onesize solution and will reward the company that approaches
them with both a tailored product/pricing offer and an
individualized sales approach.
6. Increase skills and value added during the sales
Organizing around key segments allows us to develop
specialized sales team skills. Instead of knowing a little
about every customer they meet, they can go more in
depth about the segment they have been assigned. This
creates career growth for the rep and greatly increases
their value to both the organization and the SMB. New
selling skills such as thinking from a business point of view,
customer problem-solving and product compatibility, and
cultivating relationships will take on increasing importance.
Pressure-based relationship building may be decreased by
the preference for newer, less direct ways of establishing
contacts and interaction via net messaging, text, social
media and chat. Face-to-face selling will likely remain
critical, but sales teams might be more judicious in its use
to maintain efficiency.
Becoming Indispensable by
Providing Insight Beyond Your
Own Solutions
Needs Assessment then
Recommendation and Close
Insight Selling
Solution Selling
AKA Product Selling
Transactional Selling
7. Compete for share of mindset with own salespeople
Research, time-studies and interviews with sales teams
clearly indicate the challenges they face. Multiple priorities,
order reworking, failed CRM approaches, confidence issues
with the products sold, all indicate a need for change within
a typical sales organization.
Because of internal operational challenges and marketplace
complaints, reps can bounce from reactive issue to issue,
and lose valuable time along the way. There is too much
complexity for them to handle, and this needs to be
dramatically reduced.
The changes outlined here are critical to achieving improved
sales productivity. Outlined in recent time studies, some
core sales channels targeting SMBs are down to just over
an hour a day at point of sale.
70% of revenue growth initiatives sink because of the
ongoing disconnect between marketing and sales. It’s
important to align demand creation targets coming out of
marketing with sales pipeline capabilities so that marketing
and sales are in-step.
9. Use incentives to encourage short-term sales wins
and add longer-term relationship rewards
A significant topic worthy of its own exploration, sales
compensation will continue to be a key lever in the
performance mix. Organizations in the future will need to
find effective ways to couple short term goals and customer
satisfaction. Consider less pay devoted to “easy” automatic
sales, so that increased compensation can be dedicated
to more valuable achievements that push the company’s
growth forward.
Sales teams
8. Build the customer engagement teams
This goes beyond the sales team and includes other
key functions within the organization. By 2016 most
organizations will assign and share responsibility for results
with the marketing organization. In a recent study, the ability
to demonstrate the revenue return on marketing investment
(ROMI) is the leading concern of business-to-business
marketing executives. In another survey, the majority (66%)
of marketing executives who responded cited revenue
growth as the top goal driving their strategies.
• Smarter segmentation • Upskilled salespeople
• Clear marching orders • Aligned & personal support
The increasing role of the sales manager
More than ever, studies indicate the role of the first line sales
manager as one of the most important assets to achieve
results. Companies have realized how much administrative
burden has been imposed on this group, and have worked
to lighten the load. The value of the sales manager is to:
• Work across the organization to transfer knowledge
from the field and bring various team members together.
• Coach the sales team, giving personal attention to train
and guide each rep to meet their personal goals. Sit
down with reps and help become their success planner.
Show them how to make the money. Show them the
value of happy customers.
• Provide personal service to key customer accounts and
help close programs (in combination with the primary rep).
• Provide inspiration for customer values, product
solutions and high energy selling organizations.
• Recruit the right talent, assess their potential and coach
their sales staffs more, specifically around “how to work
with others”.
• Lead the organization to provide meaningful and
relevant solutions. Improve the sales experience for the
customer. Lead sales reps to be able to adapt, modify,
improvise and achieve.
Internal improvements will likely minimize administrative
burdens and filter relevant information through aggregated
data dashboards and performance scorecards. Tools and
technology can be added to efficiently connect customers,
sales team members, support resources and provisioning
specialists. As these relieve some pressure and free up time,
the sales manager will be able to enhance their judgment. A
key valuable skill for good sales managers is her/his ability
to outline “tiebreakers” between competing objectives and
A well-conceived approach to all this combines elements
of organizational structure, coordinating mechanisms,
governance policies and aggregating technology. From a
management point of view, there needs to be a mix of sales
management, training and technology to enable sales teams.
What tools are needed?
Guided selling tools help field reps, customer center reps or
retail associates greatly improve the customer engagement
model. Through a series of questions they synthesize
the responses, recommend products and outline future
expectations that align with the answers.
Guided selling tools poised to increase in popularity by
2015 include:
• Product Advisors: Product advisors help SMBs
who know what they are looking for narrow down the
choices using questions or filters. As customers enter
information about the products they’re looking for, the
back-end technology matches these product attributes
to products in the catalog. These matches are translated
into recommendations for the consumer.
• Interactive Consulting Tools: Interactive consulting
tools are for SMBs who have an identified need or
problem, but don’t know what types of products can
solve it. These tools emulate an experienced sales
person and focus on lifestyle and usage questions in
order to recommend products.
Components within the guided selling tools environment,
• Mobile Guided Selling Apps: A mobile app can be
a viable sales and conversion tool when it includes a
guided selling component. Companies can capitalize
on the mobile movement by developing apps that glean
customer information in an interactive way and deliver
product recommendations or personalized content
based on the individual answers.
• Product and service expectations forecasters
• Interactive needs analysis and recommendation scripts
• Product and services comparisons
• Up sell and cross-sell recommendations
• Real-time pricing calculators and “chat” with supervisor
for approval
Also part of guided selling is the growing application of
product trials. Usually activated in real time during the point
of sale, these can be powerful low risk ways to get the SMB
to see the benefits quickly.
Tools that help a rep keep track of their day, plan their
appointments, manage new leads and find the right path to
adding value for the customer will grow in popularity. Tools
to clearly show the rep how they are paid and reinforce the
actions needed to achieve this pay will always be the ‘most
used’ by the sales force.
Guided selling tool displayed on an iPad
This particular tab is helping a face-to-face sales rep plan for
day and prepare for their upcoming sales call at 10:00 am.
Simplified bundled offering display
The specific product SKUs are tied to the corporation’s
product management system, eliminating errors in the field.
What training is needed?
Transitioning to the sales force of the future
Successful onboarding and training methods still involve
role-pay and include real world environments. One best
practice training center for SMBs combines technology in
the classroom with role-plays. The performance during role
play is evaluated by instructors and peers. Reinforcing the
habits obtained during this rigorous training is eLearning
and qualification testing. This is particularly effective to
certify that reps are able to properly represent the product
and sales call process.
Transitioning from current state to the sales force of the
future requires operational excellence. In order to prevent
revenue/margin risk scenarios, a migration plan needs to
be developed to protect current revenue streams and
systematically convert to the new methodologies mentioned
above. One way to accelerate the changes is to implement
a company-wide change management initiative. This will
help the incumbent sales team adapt.
Another technique that ties training to quicker results
involves adding product advocates to each local office. The
advocate plays the role of player-coach and helps reps in
both a group and individual setting. The product advocate
also works to identify any issues from the field and helps
flow these upward to a central group for resolution. This
is a best practice approach to accelerate and improve
the go-to-market launches of most products sold through
distributed sales organizations and third-parties.
Sales teams are typically a unique group, full of energy,
enthusiasm and culture. But, because of these traditions,
they can be a difficult entity to change. Care must be taken
to help sales organizations understand the changes and
visualize the winning future. To lessen the psychological
distance to the future, companies may implement changes
incrementally. Defining and deploying more focused sales
roles through team structures could not only help but also
would enable companies to generate relatively efficient
coverage models.
Provide Insight
Plan for Success
Your day, week, payperiod
to maximize effectiveness
and freedom
Provide “Insight”
1. Before
2. At Point of Sale
3. Post Sale
ProActively Facilitate
1. Customer Needs
2. Customer Solutions
3. Internal Team
1. For the Customer
2. For the Company
3. For themselves
In implementing a sales force of the future model with
insight selling, there are several strategies that must be
implemented to meet the overall objectives:
• Initiate change management practices across the
organization to encourage employees to make personal
changes and adopt a high standard for customer
satisfaction. And to uplift sales force morale if in an
environment of deep cost cutting.
• Establish shared goals and results quotas across sales,
marketing and operational/fulfillment specialists.
• Set up a governance structure to identify and transfer
best practices across the organization.
• Gather and push meaningful relevant insight to the
customer and to sales – in formats that are easy to
digest and understand.
• Organize customer engagement teams around
segments and stand-up segment specialists within the
• Establish easy-to-use dynamic analytic dashboards
to clarify results to goal. Organize the sales force near
the customer and localize for optimal benefit. Shift
accountability and decision-making to regional sales
managers to promote stronger relationships with
• Develop broader product and servicing offerings that
can be customized in the field.
• Align sales messaging to different stages in the sales
process to increase success.
• Make sure new product introduction material and
training is relevant to the sales opportunity and is in front
of sellers when they are most receptive.
• Provide sales materials and tools well in advance of new
product launches so that sales can become comfortable
in using them.
• Utilize technology to scale for efficiency, integrate
messages and cohesively bond the customer
engagement teams with the SMB.
• Maintain sales materials in a centralized, structured
digital environment that allows automatic updates.
A sales force of the future approach was introduced in
January 2013 within a major pharmaceutical company.
They are taking an incremental approach and started with
two product lines. According to an internal source, it is a
“journey of five years” that will eventually encompass the
entire product portfolio. Instead of using multiple sales
approaches with up to four reps visiting a doctor’s office,
the company now sends only one rep to cover the entire
portfolio. The company is reacting to doctor feedback
which says “There are too many sales reps in my office
and I want a partner to help me better serve my patients.”
Doctors have told the company they want sales reps that
understand competitor products as well as their own and
are knowledgeable about the diseases they treat.
Instead of organizing the sales force around specific
products, they have organized around segments including
SMB type, size and location. The local approach helps the
sales force work more effectively with doctors in regional
health care as well as government organizations.
With a “one message fits all” approach, today’s traditional
sales force model is too rigid to meet developing SMB
market needs.
The definition of the customer is widening from being
purely focused on the owner/manager to include a range
of influencers and stakeholders not previously considered.
The SMB will have more choices than ever in the future, and
will seek out a trusted advisor to help them make insightful
Future successful SMB selling teams need nine essential
1. Obtain insight to become the most knowledgeable about
the market, customers, trends, competition and differentiators.
2. Segment the customer and potential customer for optimal
results and internal efficiency.
3. Organize the sales effort to efficiently match up with these
4. Adopt a fully supported insight sales approach.
5. Bring a broader mix of products and solutions that can be
customized to fit diverse needs.
6. Increase skills and value added during the sales experience.
7. Compete for share of mindset with our own salespeople.
8. Build the customer engagement teams and support
9. Compensate reps on both short-term wins and longer-term
customer satisfaction measures.
The sales force of the future will be designed around better
meeting the changing needs of the SMB. Both decision
makers and decision influencers will be cared for, utilizing
a broader understanding of each SMB and the category
it represents. Customer engagement teams across the
organization will be better equipped to support the sales
reps critical mission:
Provide valuable insight at the point of sales to become
indispensable to the SMB.
Technology and a more flexible regional structure will be key
enablers. Guided selling tools used by all sales specialists
will help convey a better understanding of SMB needs.
These same tools will provide clearer expectations of how
well products will perform, what solutions they will provide
and the key benefits. Customer business centers or insight
portals will also become robust as a way to efficiently
engage the SMB with insight selling and help them navigate
their choices.
About Amdocs
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improve operational efficiency. The global company uniquely combines a market-leading BSS, OSS and network control product portfolio
with value-driven professional services and managed services operations. With revenue of $3.2 billion in fiscal 2012, Amdocs and its
20,000 employees serve customers in more than 60 countries. Amdocs: Embrace Challenge, Experience Success. For more information,
visit Amdocs at
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