Large companies selling products and/or services have a certain luxury when it comes to customers – usually, they have developed a name, a product preference and large reference list that have customers coming to them. They have dedicated Sales and Marketing teams that ensure the customers will make a decision for them! SME’s on the other hand, especially Services SME’s do not have that specific luxury. They do however, have a more special bond with their customers, based around trust and service and doing that bit extra because it counts. And, customers who are happy with that service are usually very sticky and remain loyal, sometimes in spite of possibly better offerings in the market place.
This IS the SME story.
SME’s spend a lot of time keeping that loyal customer base happy. Because of their size, once they feel that there is enough business to sustain them, or feel that taking on more business is too difficult, new business development is a 2nd or 3rd priority at the weekly management meeting. The nature of small business is reflected, mostly, in the nature of the principals of the business. That is, they created the business because they were very good and used their network to create the value chain.
In good times, the SME will flourish with their customers in a healthy ecosystem – in challenging times, they all share the same pain. It is curious, and perhaps part of the SME DNA, that the SME management team mostly accept that fate – or at least have done so in the past.
Here’s a simple fact – in challenging times, the SME Services company without a focus on sales and the process of business creation as one of the top 2 daily priorities will fail.
Here’s some more interesting observed behaviour – SME’s rarely want to invest in a dedicated Sales or BD Manager because “they’ll probably leave us once they’ve generated sales” or “they wasted our time and money”. Well, the first problem is a great problem to have. The second problem most likely could have been avoided.
And yet another observation – “We gave Bob, our lead engineer, the Sales job part time, because customers like him and he’s generated a lot of follow on business in ACME Mining”. Most likely, Bob was really liked because he delivered and was personable and knows a lot about the customers business. Was he “selling”? – yes! Was he creating business? – yes! Was he creating NEW business? No!
So, how do you harness what you’ve got and align a sales and business development process to that? How do you generate new business in a challenging market? How do you exploit a speciality to create a new business line? A myriad of Management and Sales 101 books will provide great guidance and tips and secrets and “10 steps” and “7 behaviours” but, without practice and game time, those books will remain dust collectors and tax deductions. Get help, get focused, just do it.