If your company is wondering how to effectively sell to the massive SMB (small and medium-sized business) market, you are not alone. Many businesses are realizing that they have to shift their sales models to profitably offer lower-priced or subscription-based products and services to volumes of smaller businesses. Dell, an early leader in understanding how to sell to SMB, adopted inside sales and other Sales 2.0 practices at a time when selling computers direct – online and by phone – was not the norm. My recent experience speaking at the DWEN (Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network) event in Rio de Janeiro underscored what I already knew about their leadership and understanding of the large and growing SMB opportunity. Here are six things that Dell does right with the DWEN event – practices you may want to emulate in wooing SMB execs.
Dell’s decision to hold DWEN, an invitation-only event, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, demonstrated their understanding of the country’s skyrocketing revenue potential, especially in the women-led SMB market. It’s a pretty great draw as conference destinations go, too. Last year, DWEN was held in Shanghai; next year (decided by online vote during this year’s event), DWEN goes to India. See a trend?
Nothing says, “we care about you and your business” like showing executive support for your customers. Steve Felice, the highest-ranking SMB executive (who reports directly to Michael Dell), not only kicked off both days of the event but also made himself available by taking part in all the social events. I was able not only to introduce myself, but to discuss a strategic, soon-to-be-announced project with him that Phone Works, my company, is doing for his division – a project that highlights their company’s support of cloud computing and Sales 2.0. Other Dell heavy hitters, including Erik Dithmer, VP and General Manager of SMB Americas and Consumer Latin America, Kim Hibler, VP U.S. SMB Sales, and other senior executives were not only in the audience, but led panels and discussions.
DWEN featured some well-known personalities. Moira Forbes, publisher of ForbesWoman, was invited to moderate and interview Arianna Huffington, who appeared via video conference…talk about Interview 2.0! All other speakers were attendees like me: founders, CEOs, authors, investors, press and analysts from around the world. I met women from Canada, Brazil, Australia, India, Japan and China, in addition to other Americans. Of about 125 people, more than 25% of the attendees spoke on panels or were recruited to lead informal breakout and pool-side sessions held throughout the two days. Dell recognized that we all have something valuable to share and, by participating, we were all engaged.
In the panel on which I spoke, “Ahead of the Curve: How the Right Technology Strategy Can Promote Real Growth,” led by Kim Hibler, I emphasized that today’s customers demand relevant messages and content that can help them in their business. Lattice Engines, one of the conference sponsors, delivers this in spades. Their sales intelligence software, salesPRISM, used by Dell’s sales team, helps reps identify the right Dell solution for each customer’s unique needs by providing dynamically updated, data-driven talking points that the salespeople can use to engage in relevant, timely discussions with their prospects and customers. salesPRISM has helped Dell increase sales productivity and drive higher sales growth. You can read more about Dell SMB’s success with Lattice Engines here.
Other panels discussed funding options, using social media in business, and marketing to youth (“How Gen Y will rock your world: Seize upon their love of technology and their resistance to marketing.”) Perhaps the best-received session, “Pitch Confidence,” was affectionately labeled the “Dolphin Tank.” Entrepreneurs were invited to deliver a two-minute “sales pitch,” after which they received critiques from both investment experts and the audience. Unlike the typical “shark tank” that many CEOs experience when presenting to VCs and other investors, a fundamental rule of this session was that feedback be presented in a constructive and supportive fashion.
DWEN is a conference for women and Dell embraces that. And I’m not just talking about what goes into the goodie bag. Dell set the tone for an atmosphere of trust and collaboration, discussion and participation that showed their understanding of women (and men who get Sales 2.0.) They packed the program with the right topics, encouraged Q&A and interaction throughout the event by placing microphones at the audience tables. (Ever met a woman who doesn’t like to talk?) There were also nice touches that women appreciate: morning yoga on the beach, chocolate at the breaks (thanks to sponsor sweetriot – chocolate with a social conscience!)
One of the most difficult principles in Sales 2.0 – and one I struggle with myself – is how to let your audience know what you have to offer, without turning them off by what may be perceived as a sales pitch. Dell handled this beautifully at DWEN. While Steve Felice mentioned Dell’s cloud computing initiatives and recent acquisitions (Boomi, which integrates applications, and SecureWorks for information security and threat protection), Dell’s offerings were not on the main stage. They had one small exhibit at one of the breaks, and put into practice one of Sales 2.0’s most compelling approaches of putting your product into your prospect’s hands to let them sell themselves. Dell gave away a Vostro laptop to every attendee, custom-skinned with a photo of Rio’s famed Carnival.
What has your business found to be successful in selling to the SMB market? How would you like to improve?