Selling Telecoms Services to SMBs

SMBs are feeling pretty optimistic — and that translates into plans to invest in telecommunications services, whether to improve Internet access speed or upgrade a phone system. SMBs understand what being connected means to their business.

To find out how you can take advantage of SMB interest in your offerings, we recently surveyed over 700 U.S. SMB principals. The findings are instructive; there are some great learnings on how SMBs learn about, research and make telecoms purchase decisions; their purchase intent and timing; perceptions and trust of leading telecoms brands; SMB content marketing preferences; and how telecoms vendors can improve the sales process.

Purchase Intent and Timing

SMBs are most likely (29%) to buy new or additional (or upgrade) cellphones this year, followed by high speed Internet access (25%), routers / switches / Internet access points (21%) and tablets (19%).

The timing to make a purchase decision is pretty similar for all the telecoms services we surveyed. 57% of SMBs decide on a cellphone and Internet access solution within a month, compared to landlines and routers / switches / Internet access points (tied at 55%), handsets (54%), tablets (53%) and a phone system (51%).

Connecting with SMBs

How can you connect with these potential buyers? SMBs are most likely to first learn about new technology solutions from fellow business owners — 33% of respondents are likely or very likely to rely on their peers, followed by an email newsletter (32%), events and trade shows (27%), newspapers and magazines (also 27%) and direct mail (26%).

To conduct research, SMBs are most likely to use search (45%), ask peers (32%), and visit the product (30%) or resources (26%) sections of your website. To make an actual purchase decision, they rely most on search (36%), the product section of your site (29%), their peers (27%), a call or meeting with a sales representative (also 27%), and the resources section of your site (26%).

Telecoms Purchase Drivers

SMBs are most likely to invest in telecoms solutions to reduce communication costs. 58% rate that as important, followed by ‘current solution is dated / not working well,’ (57%), ‘improve data security’ (54%), and ‘improve performance / business processes’ (53%).

Brand awareness and trust

SMB awareness of telecoms brands varies widely. 76% are aware or very aware of AT&T, followed closely by Verizon (75%), Google (60%), and Apple and Sprint (tied at 58%). However, trust in tech brands does not necessarily correlate with awareness. Zultys and 8x8 are the most trusted brands (tied at 60%), followed by Phone Power (59%), Google (54%) and Apple (50%).

Boosting trust — and sales

What can you do to increase trust in your brand — and thus SMB sales? Well, start by focusing on reliability. 81% of SMBs rate that as an important aspect of purchasing telecoms services — followed by low lifetime cost (72%); and then simple, clear and all-inclusive pricing, easy to learn / use and low initial cost (all tied at 71%).

How well do telecoms vendors actually perform on these aspects? The biggest difference is in low lifetime cost — 72% of SMBs say it is important, but only 48% rate telecoms vendors well on this dimension. Likewise 71% say low initial cost, and clear and all-inclusive pricing, are important — but only 48% are satisfied with telecoms vendors in this area.

The role of content in selling telecoms to SMBs

While many aspects of selling telecoms to SMB are difficult for a marketing department to change, content is a relatively easy and inexpensive tactic to boost SMB traffic, trust and transactions. 76% of SMBs agree that business management advice, in a resource center, makes them think more favorably of the vendor that provided it; 73% agree that content makes them more likely to buy from that vendor and 71% agree that it makes them more likely to remain a customer.

The content SMBs want from you

Unsurprisingly, SMBs most want advice on technology from telecoms companies. They are also interested in tips on operations and business development / sales and marketing. Ultimately, they look to you for advice on achieving their productivity, efficiency and marketing goals.

In terms of formats, SMBs most want printed booklets or guides from telecoms companies, followed by an email newsletter, articles, online (i.e. PDF) guides or handbooks, interactive tools / configurators, and research reports.