Top 5 Challenges SMEs Face When Selling to Large Supply Chains

Selling to large supply chains can be time consuming. Competition is fierce and stakes are high for both sides. Let’s look at the top 5 biggest challenges every salesperson faces and how you can overcome them to close more deals in the upcoming year. 

1. Sales cycle is too long

This is perhaps the biggest challenge SMEs face when selling to large companies. The larger the contract, the longer the process will be. From your prospect’s perspective, they need to manage their assets wisely and must take time to review and evaluate their options before making a decision. 

There are a couple of strategies you can use to shorten the sales cycle and land that deal. The key is to stay in touch, be consistent and stay relevant. If you can attend events they are attending and build your credibility through personal interaction, you should absolutely do that. What’s even better is to speak at such events or become a sponsor. You can also offer an “easy yes” to a smaller scope project which will be much easier to get buy in, plus it will help you build credibility with the company. 

One thing to keep in mind  – a B2B sales cycle might be longer, but it also can be more rewarding than selling to smaller businesses or individuals. If they like you and you deliver on your promise, you will be able to make more money in the long term. 

2. Unable to reach sales prospect

First of all, realize that there are the right “Prospects” who will be able to make a purchasing decision on what you offer,” Introducers” who can introduce you to the right person and “Tire kickers” whose sole purpose is to waste your time (without telling you). You want to get rid of Tire kickers, ask for introductions from Introducers and follow up with the prequalified prospects. 

Chances are that almost none of your Prospects will be ready to buy from you the moment they meet you. They need time to check you out, research other options and ultimately  ensure they make the right business decision. Statistics state that it might take 8-12 approaches to gain interest from a prospect. Many SMEs give up too soon – after 2-3 attempts. Follow up is a key to reaching the prospect. 

Take time to review your existing follow up strategy. How is it working for you? Do you give up too soon? Do you need to build additional touch points? Building resources-like white papers, brochures, case studies, videos, samples and more might help you stay in touch with your prospects during the process. Make sure that they are insightful, relevant and useful. You might also vary your approach, switching between email, phone calls, in-person meetings, social media and more. 

3. Complicated buying & decision making process

As you can imagine, every corporation has its own buying and decision making process. Navigating the space can be time consuming. The more complex your solution, the more frustrating it can be to navigate through all the hoops. Buyers might need to do additional research, include additional internal buyers in the decision making process, or simply get additional approvals. 

It is crucial that you take time to understand the buying culture, processes and policies before you present your sales pitch. Do your research, have multiple conversations, prepare well to win the gig. At WBE Canada, we connect women-owned businesses with procurement professionals to enable conversations around procurement processes, upcoming procurement initiatives and more.  

4. More than 1 decision maker

There are usually multiple people involved in a corporate decision making process. Actually, there are more decision makers today than there were 2 years ago. Always ensure that you have the ability to talk to final decision makers. Talking to their assistants and hoping for them to do a good job selling your product to a decision maker is not a good sales strategy. 

Some of the decision makers might have competing priorities and you will need to win each of them over to get their buy-in. The best sales people ask questions and listen more than talk, adjusting their pitch based on data collected during these conversations. Listing product features is not going to help you win the gig. Specifying benefits for the company and individual buyers will.  

5. Retaining customers

It is more expensive and time consuming to find a new customer than to upsell an existing customer. This is also the most untapped territory SMEs leave behind. I strongly recommend taking a path of more proactive selling. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come, reach out to your existing customers and let them know about other options that might be useful for them. 

Schedule an appreciation lunch to inquire about your prospect’s additional needs that you might have a solution for. Send an updated catalogue with products and services they are currently not buying, but might be interested in. Ask them about their biggest frustrations and develop a new product or feature that will resolve it. Opportunities are limited by your imagination. This of course goes hand in hand with you delivering great service, meeting the timelines and being a great vendor to work with.   

Meet Silvia Pencak

Silvia Pencak is the President of Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), Canadian nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating relationships between Canadian women-owned businesses and large corporate and government organizations across North America. They promote the economic advancement of Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). As a quality third-party certifying of businesses that are 51% owned, managed and controlled by women, WBE Canada has been connecting them to large supply chains since 2009. To learn more about their initiatives, click here. You can connect with Silvia directly on Twitter