Telesperience Chief Strategist Teresa Cottam looks at why communications service providers (CSPs) need to invest in order to sell more effectively to SMEs.
Joachim Wtewael, The fruit and vegetable seller, c1618
It matters less about what you call them - SME, SMB, MSME, PYME - and more about how you sell to them and support them. Small and medium-sized enterprises may make up 99% of all businesses worldwide, and they may be now regarded as the number 1 target for CSP growth, but the fact remains can CSPs sell to them and manage them effectively?
The truth is many CSPs can't. They sell SMEs little other than connectivity, and have failed to develop a value-added network-plus business in this sector. At the bottom end of the market (which is typically 90% of the SME sector), many CSPs still can't accurately identify their small and micro-business customers, because they're hidden on the consumer infrastructure stack, use consumer packages and are rebelliously uninterested in identifying themselves as business customers. (After all, what's in it for them to do so?) Infrastructure, and not customer need or CSP opportunity, is determining what can and can't be sold to these customers.
Even at the other end of the SME market, medium-sized businesses are still undersold with ICT services, have multiple suppliers, and are often not highly profitable customers because they cost too much to support.
Seventy-two per cent of CSPs may see the SME market as having 'significant' growth potential, but if CSPs can't sell effectively and cost-effectively to SMEs then they are not even getting over the first hurdle.
Currently, the SME presales processes and order entry are far from optimal in many CSPs. Manually-intensive processes create a range of negative customer outcomes including:
- costly rework due to inefficient requirements and order capture, working from out-of-date information, or breaching of policies or pricing constraints - resulting in design rejection and provisioning errors which makes SMB customers less profitable
- slow time-to-revenue due to extended sales cycles
- a failure to optimise the sale by matching customer business needs more accurately due to lack of up-to-date product or pricing information
- lower customer satisfaction due to delays in meeting expectations because of slow order and fulfilment processes and errors
- inconsistent customer experience due to inefficient hand offs and ineffective collaboration between teams
- pricing errors leading to unprofitable deals or overinflated prices that cause the customer to churn to rivals or delay buying services.
The good news is that CSPs are prepared to put 'their money where their mouth is'. They recognise the weaknesses in their current SME processes and plan to invest in overhauling and improving them. For example, in our recent study of CSP plans around their SME customers we found that 71% plan to invest to reduce the duration of the sales cycle from enquiry to quotation to order.
Find out more about their SME strategies and investment plans in our new Data Sheet: 'Selling to small and medium-sized businesses'. To get a free copy please email firstname.lastname@example.org.