The Unified Communications (UC) market is growing more than five times faster than traditional telephony . Investment in UC is accelerating because of the commercial benefits on offer to smaller organisations. Deloitte research found that small UK firms using Unified Communications are growing up to 26% faster than those who do not. Importantly, the small business market is relatively untapped compared to the rest of the Enterprise sector. This combination of demand plus available market adds up to a clear and present business development opportunity for the channel.
Accessing this market has its challenges; according to a survey by Comms Business, the two biggest pain-points for the channel are:
This article considers these problems and proposes some solutions based on interviews with over 300 small business buyers.
Buying has changed. Buyers use the Internet and peer groups to shape and inform their decisions; they are over 70% of the way through a traditional sales process before they engage with a supplier, which has a direct impact on buyers’ expectations from their account managers. Almost 40% of respondents to a Comms Business survey of value added resellers cited ‘sub-par account managers’ as their biggest pain point. I do not believe it is as clear-cut as this. Buyers want help to decide the best way forward, guided around potential pitfalls and closed without feeling under pressure. A compelling 97% of buyers want fewer, more meaningful, interactions with sales.
Changes in buyer behaviour mean suppliers’ sales operations need to adapt. If you have an account management skills problem, it is likely that your organisation as a whole is out of step with what buyers want. By understanding how your buyers’ needs have changed, you will be able to uncover the capability gaps in your sales function and bridge them. In my experience, this usually involves strengthening marketing capacity and re-skilling sales to deliver the engagement buyers require to make a purchase.
Suppliers’ value propositions play a pivotal role in selling successfully to a smaller business. The buyers we interviewed were highly critical of the propositions on offer. So, we asked them what they would like to see. Here is what they said.
Buyers believe that suppliers focus too much on service features and not enough on how those features could help their business. In a small business, the decision-maker is likely to be the business owner. Selling on practical business benefits rather than on service functionality is the key to success. The simplest way of achieving this is with case studies that illustrate the business benefits being reached with the UC offering you are selling.
Buyers would like to see more pricing on suppliers’ websites. Almost four in ten buyers said they would not consider a supplier unless pricing information were available online.
We found a high degree of frustration among buyers about what they perceive are ‘hidden extras’. Call charges are a good example of this. Buyers would like suppliers to be clear about which calls are chargeable and which aren’t. Other service elements that come under criticism are transitioning fees, number porting costs and additional licences.
Small business buyers want UC propositions that evidence how they can;
During our interviews, we challenged buyers about their willingness to pay more to obtain these benefits. Their response was clear; they will pay a premium for solutions that deliver the advantages they seek.
Buyers find it hard to distinguish one supplier’s offering from another’s, which is not surprising since many resellers are offering very similar services. Buyers want providers to explain what is different about them. Statements like ‘We are a leading provider of UC services…’ make no impact on today’s buyers. Of all the buyers’ requirements, this is the toughest. That said, it can be done, and the rewards to suppliers are significant. Successful differentiation requires;
With this data, you can build a proposition that is unique to you and is aligned with what buyers’ value. When done well, differentiation is the most potent way of growing your business.