Can a small company survive in the tough and sometimes cutthroat business sales market? Absolutely—you can survive
and thrive if you keep your eyes and ears open. In fact, it’s usually the smaller companies that first introduce the new, innovative niche products. Rather than have a large, expensive R&D department trying to develop 50 or 100 new products, small businesses search for one or two great innovations. Or, they try to improve existing products that they know their customers are looking for. They usually have a target market in mind before they even develop the product, and that helps ensure success. Being close to your market and customers will give you ideas that the big companies never see.
Even if you’re just staring a new business, you can compete with the big boys by offering new ideas for old products and special services that are not being offered now. Ask customers and prospects what new products or services they would like to see or have improved, and then work on it. Remember, the big boys were once little boys like you, with great new ideas. As they got bigger, bureaucracy took over, and the new ideas and customer service probably suffered. Don’t let your business slip into a generic mode; be new, different, and aggressive all the time. Keep doing research, but do it with your customers, not in a lab.
A smaller company can provide other businesses with innovative products sold in innovative ways by people who practice (not just preach) great service. A small business can react to changes much faster if it keeps abreast of its market and industry. And, with corporate layoffs, cutbacks, and downsizing, job security in a large company is not what it was years ago. Employee loyalty has fallen, and it shows in their jobs. Business customers are finding that their sales reps are changing jobs constantly, and the new reps have no idea what their needs are, except what they can glean from past orders. Most buyers want and demand that a business supplier learn and remember what their needs are.
When employees become valuable to a small business, their job security is relatively assured, even in economic downturns. They are usually in a position to help the company survive during the slow times by getting even closer to their customers—and in the end, the customer benefits, too, from this attention and service.
Business customers normally purchase more costly items and larger quantities than consumers, so you need fewer customers to show greater sales volume. The main difference between business and consumer sales is that, in many cases, business sales are done through a personal visit, a phone call, direct mail, or a website. This can create a higher selling expense, but it is offset by a greater order amount.
Business sales are somewhat easier because you usually aren’t dealing with erratic consumer behavior and fickle buying habits. A buyer for a business will act differently when he leaves the office and becomes a consumer. People usually act professionally in a business-to-business transaction, no matter how fickle they may be in their personal buying habits.
Convenience, service, quality, and reliability play an even bigger part in business sales than in consumer sales. Chances are slim that you’ll keep a business customer who has to call you two or three times when there’s a problem. They don’t have the time, and there’s always another vendor waiting to take your place. They expect any problems to be resolved quickly and professionally.