Selling Technology to SMEs

A few weeks ago, we had shared a link with our readers. This article had brought out that unlike the quick and nimble image associated with SMEs, many such businesses were also very careful adopters of new technology. They did not jump onto new bandwagons with their eyes closed but rather they liked to wait to see how other businesses’ experiments fared before they took the plunge themselves.

We now have the complete report on which the article was based and it makes interesting reading. Businesses that plan to sell to SMEs must take cognizance of the points made in the report. In the next few paragraphs, we discuss some key points.

Spreading the Good Word

When it came to awareness of the spectrum of digital communications technologies, most SME owners and managers were aware of the vast field these technologies covered. This in itself proved confusing for many people and they often did not have in-house expertise to advise them correctly. Therefore SMEs tend to rely on recommendations by word of mouth. The learning for service providers is obvious. Instead of wasting time and effort on glitzy brochures and dazzling (and confusing) presentations, they should focus on customer service quality and client testimonials. The situation is different in larger organizations where an information technology team is already in place. Vendors approaching SME managers must come prepared to display solid business benefits, verifiable testimonials and a total absence of unnecessary bells and whistles (which they would end up paying for).

Big Data is not yet a Big Thing

While publications seem to focus heavily on big data and vendors swear by it, big data is not yet a big thing for an SME. To begin with, they simply do not have the large datasets that would justify any expenses in these areas, also, research showed that many SMEs were simply unaware of what constituted big data. If one does want to discuss a big data solution with an SME, research would be required into existing data sets and a proper business case would have to be made first.

No Guinea Pigs Please

Small businesses are particularly vary about being guinea pigs for new technology. This is obvious because they do not sit on large cushions and cannot become a proving ground for new technology. Besides, the small size of SMEs also simplifies their communication needs and therefore they can often get by with technology that is older but well proven and low cost. If you are planning to sell a solution or technology to an SME, it may not pay to try and sell something that is ‘cutting / bleeding edge’ (aka still being proven). Offer technology that is one rung down but that which has been clearly proven to work.

Faith in Industry Bodies

SMEs tend to have much greater faith in industry bodies as they feel that these institutions have the interests of the industry at heart. If the sector is highly regulated than faith in such bodies is even stronger. Businesses that plan to sell services or goods to SMEs need to demonstrate that they are meeting industry standards and complying with relevant regulations. SMEs pay attention to the recommendations such bodies make. An example is given of a Legal Service that followed the advice of the Law Society to stay away from cloud based services because some security issues were yet to be resolved.

The key learning that emerged from the research was that one had to treat the SME segment as a different kind of market as compared to businesses that were more established and had a larger footprint. SMEs are less stable and face many different challenges on much smaller budgets. While they are quick and nimble in some areas, in others they prefer to keep one foot firmly on the ground. A clear understanding of these issues will help in more fruitful business interactions.

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