I had a great lunch yesterday with a guy who’s been selling information and services into the small-business market for many years. Some excellent insights from that meeting:
* If you're selling seminars, beware. Educational seminars have always been a big part of his marketing, but he says it’s becoming harder and harder to get people out. Where he used to get a 3% to 4% response rate from his direct mail, it’s now more like 1% or less. He suspects the technique has been overused, and that entrepreneurs are now seminared-out.
* If you're selling information products, keep in mind that entrepreneurs don't want to be educated. “They want to learn by osmosis,” he says. Turn information into stories, case studies and anecdotes to make it easier to digest and remember.
* Entrepreneurial spirit is not as common in small business as you might think. While most entrepreneurs continue to think freely, weirdly and creatively, very few of their employees are entrepreneurial thinkers. The more employees a company has, he says, the more corporate they are likely to become.
* Don't try and sell features to small-business owners. “Entrepreneurs are driven by pain.” Tell them now what your product or service can do, but how it can solve their most pressing problem now.
* Get in the ground floor with a small-business prospect. Sell a low-cost product or service that will get you in the door. Once an entrepreneur trusts you and your ability to create value, you will find that many of their budget restrictions disappear like magic.
The fifth point is obviously the most important. Despite all the defenses that entrepreneurs put up, they need a few key suppliers with whom to form lasting relationships. And when you scale that wall, it makes you forget all that sweat, all the rejection, and those half-empty seminars rooms.