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2018 was the beginning of the final arc of the process where small businesses (SMBs) are increasingly having the chance to sell like the big enterprise players. We don’t necessarily mean that SMBs will become $50B companies in the next year or two — they wouldn’t be SMBs anymore! — but you will keep seeing SMBs rising up and hitting tons of numbers and growing. Why is this happening and how can you take advantage of it in 2019 and 2020?

The relationship-to-value shift

This is still taking some time, but over the last five years, we’ve seen a shift away from relationship-selling and towards value-based selling. Bigger companies are usually very good at relationship-selling, because they can afford to pay guys with a lot of connections and have them work the “trade shows and steak dinner” angle. However, relationship-selling doesn’t scale very well. Once you run out of existing relationships or your best relationships change industry or roles, it becomes much harder to sell. You also put too much sales pressure on those with the relationships, and they burn out from travel and work. That shift to value-based selling, though, is important for SMBs. Bigger companies tend to be weak on value-based selling or at least to articulate the value properly. They have too many cooks in the kitchen on value proposition, so it often becomes unclear and they’re selling too much (multiple solutions), where it’s hard for a buyer to clearly see the value of what they’re getting. SMBs tend to struggle on relationships – especially when they enter a new market segment – and be much better on value. If that shift continues in the next 3-5 years (it will), it benefits the SMBs greatly.

You’re seeing a similar concept in the market with “brand” vs. “customer experience.” Brand is often largely about relationships and partnerships and functional associations. Customer experience is tied to the value the customer is getting, and how they actually feel about your brand. It’s a shift from relationships to value, and in the past 5-10 years, “branding” has become less valuable and the value you’re providing customers has increased in fiscal importance.

Affordable sales technology

This is largely because of the rise of SaaS, which is almost fully at scale, and the subsequent rise of subscription models. SaaS + subscription models means you can get relatively cheap — not in the bad way! — sales technology that offers you a good deal of functionality. If you’ve ever worked in any organization, you know the time of the sales force is usually extremely protected. They go to a lot less bullshit-type meetings than the rest of the company, and that’s only logical: they sell, so they can’t have their time tied up in stuff that honestly doesn’t matter that much. Well, affordable sales tech has helped do the same thing: lots of the dumb logistical issues that were crucial to sales 15 years ago can now be handled by the tech, which means you have more time to actually interact with prospects and buyers and showcase the value of what you have to offer.

The maturation of sales outsourcing

You’re increasingly seeing a split between Sales Development Reps (SDRs) and Account Executives (AEs), which is good for business in a few ways. SDRs find prospects and engage them, than AEs work demos and close deals. This typically leads to more effective, structured processes for Go-To-Market, Lead Generation, and overall Sales Execution. And as with tech, you’re seeing more affordability in the outsourcing of these services. We offer a 1-2-3 growth plan, for example, that’s significantly cheaper than building an internal team. It also contains less risk, as internal hires can always flop, but outsourced services contain established professionals who know the landscape and how to fit product to market. Specialization of roles and cost reduction in outsourcing have been hugely beneficial for SMBs looking to hyper-grow.

Ted Bauer
About the author

I help companies to market their content in the most effective way.