@alysfitz , www.linkedin.com/in/alysfitz

After spending upwards of 25 years in the partner ecosystem, I can honestly say that I’ve delighted in watching the evolution of the global partner ecosystem. The rise of the SMB market has become really interesting to me, with their unique challenges and pain points. Microsoft partners have jumped at the opportunity to provide solutions in our SMB friendly environment, which is so impactful because now every small or mid-market business has the opportunity to run their businesses on the technology that can bring their vision to life.

On the latest episode of the Microsoft Partner Network podcast, I talk about how partners can explore the art of the possible in the SMB space.

Understanding the Unique Demands of the SMB Market

The SMB market might seem like the small fish in a big pond, but there are so many small and midmarket businesses that they represent a huge portion of the technology customer base. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are an estimated 28 million small businesses in America accounting for over 50% of all U.S. sales. Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs in this country since the 1970s. Globally, small businesses account for an even larger percentage of the market share, and the vast majority of those companies need some form of technology to accomplish their business goals.

But selling to the SMB market comes with some unique demands that partners looking to grow in that space should be aware of.

1. Cookie Cutter Solutions Won’t Work

Customization is critical for an SMB customer, just like an enterprise customer, but SMBs have higher expectations of their technology. They want what works for them, and they are quick to find the solutions with the functionality that is worth the cost of the solution. So, make sure you’re not selling them a solution that won’t fit their needs. Focus on selling them the right tech at the right time to solve the problem completely.

2. Innovation is Everything

For small and medium businesses, it’s all about what’s new and what works when it comes to technology. The same services or products that have become a staple for enterprise customers, will actually not help a small business achieve their goals or stand out to their customers. Innovation is everything, and roll outs need to be seamless and easy to integrate. They look to you to be their technology experts and transformation guides, to provide solutions that they wouldn’t even think about. So, make sure you are providing them with your latest and greatest solutions that will revolutionize how they get down to business.

3. Mindset Matters

To sell more effectively to any company, you need to meet them in their space. You need to speak the same language and really understand their challenges. Otherwise, you’re not solving problems, you’re selling a product that’s more about you than about them. This means you need to understand their specialization. Are they working exclusively in on industry vertical? Are their employees remote? What geography are they focused on? Each of these elements makes a difference to their business, so it should make a difference to your sales model as well. You need to speak their language, meet their needs, and understand exactly how you can help their business before you even walk in the door.

A Different Take on the Customer Journey

With SMB customers, 80% of the sales decision is made digitally even before they will meet with a technology partner. That means that for those looking to sell to an SMB customer, a strong digital presence is key. Keep in mind, a large portion of small and mid-market businesses have millennials in positions of leadership, and that makes a difference in the solutions they invest in and the buying process itself.

When I look at an SMB today, the thinking is very different. You need to build a sales model that recognizes that many SMB buyers are looking for answers on their mobile devices, they’re interacting with technology companies through social media to a greater degree, and they’re quicker to adopt new technologies such as cloud computing. And, the cloud subscription model offers the flexibility and the responsiveness that SMBs crave.

While it might take a little out-of-the-box thinking, the SMB market is an exciting opportunity for partners looking to really connect with customers. For more insights into how to connect with SMB customers, check out the latest episode of the Microsoft Partner Network podcast. Subscribe to the podcast for weekly downloads of our conversations with industry experts and thought leaders on the cutting edge of business and technology. Past episodes are available for download on iTunesSoundCloudiHeartRadioGoogle Play Music, and YouTube. And don’t forget to leave us a review!

Share your thoughts on the SMB market with other partners in the Microsoft Partner Community.