Top tips for selling to SMEs

Sales By Josanne Griffin-Mason, 23rd December 2014

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined by their size; in Europe, this typically includes less than 250 employees and under £30 million in turnover.

SMEs are vital to the economy and are considered as important engines of growth – essential for efficient and competitive markets, as well as being key creators of new jobs as companies expand and grow1.

Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of SMEs here at Plug and Play. Selling to them isn’t an easy task, but with the right mind-set, attitude and offer, you can gear your sales process towards their unique expectations and requirements.

By sharing some of the things we’ve learnt, we hope to provide you with a list of the most important elements to consider when targeting and selling to SMEs.

So, first up, always remember:

  1. SMEs are cash sensitive – most SMEs have been created by brave entrepreneurs who haven’t had access to venture capital. Be mindful about this, and with some smart planning you can easily work around it with bespoke payment plans. Gaining trust is key.
  2. SMEs talk with other SMEs – they work in small communities that are tightly bound. Owners know other owners, so if you deliver great results, rest assured that word of mouth will be on your side and you will be referred to their peers.
  3. SMEs want to know about their competitors – starting a pitch with insight about their competitors is a sure fire way to grab their attention. Helping an SME understand what their competitors are doing in the marketplace, and how best to respond to and be better than them, will prove extremely valuable to them.

With that in mind, now it’s time to consider your offer, and how you can best tailor it for SMEs.

  • SMEs want a return on investment quickly – time is money for SMEs. Delivering a result quickly and ensuring they get cash back promptly is a great way to entice weary businesses owners. But be ready to back up your claims with facts and data to prove it all isn’t just a theory.
  • Prioritise good quality leads – ensure you prioritise leads that are actually interested and avoid chasing businesses that aren’t keen. Some businesses won’t have the time to respond to you, but they might do in a few months time – so always remember to follow up a month or so later when their workload has (hopefully!) eased up.
  • Have compelling reasons to buy – respond to and capitalise on any internal and external pressures SMEs might be facing. For example, government legislation changes or staff requests. Ask yourself – how can your offer be the solution SMEs want to use.
  • Actively respond to the market – be sure to constantly review and update your offer. SMEs are highly influenced by even the slightest market changes, thus you have to ensure you respond as well.
  • Identify their needs, then align with them – make their problem your problem. Then show them the solution and how you are best suited for their bespoke requirements.
  • Be human – SMEs aren’t huge faceless companies. Take the time to call, particularly if you haven’t made a sale but there is still interest. Once you have formed a relationship with the business owner, regardless of business arrangements, you will be much higher on their priority list.

1 The Open Group, 2014. Maximizing the Value of Cloud for Small-Medium Enterprises: Key SME Characteristics (Business and IT). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19th December 2014].