Taking Your SaaS Business Down Market - Observations From An SMB Buyer

Posted by Greg Dickinson on Feb 8, 2019 10:17:53 AM

53ff99abcba25eb804a6c77b6d78f38aIn the last five days, I’ve had at least 10 conversations with B2B SaaS companies that are moving down market - primarily enterprise vendors trying to expand their reach by targeting SMBs with smaller, “lite” versions of their software.  It’s a tough transition, as I know from my own, sometimes painful experience.  One of the most common misconceptions, I believe, is that software buyers in big companies are significantly different to software buyers in smaller businesses.  Let’s break it down in terms of what any software buyer – regardless of company size - looks like today:

  •  Always connected - everyone’s online all the time
  • Want to self-educated
  • Primarily interested in if and how the product will help them – personally
  • Have lots of choices
  • Want to see the product as quickly as possible
However, when we’re selling to SMBs, we also need to take the following into consideration: 
  • Don’t necessarily have the defined buying processes of large companies
  • Their personal reputation is on the line – there’s nowhere to hide in a small company
  • They already have a full-time job, so lack the resources to evaluate, test or trial a shortlist of products
  • They’re doing 50%+ of their research at nights and weekend
  • The majority of buying decisions are ultimately made by the CEO. 

At first glance, it looks as if SMB buyers require the same amount of selling.  But when we dig in a bit further, is it possible that SMB buyers actually require more support? Setting aside the obvious variables to do with product complexity, the question for any SaaS company looking to engage with SMB buyers is:  can you successfully reduce the level of sales support without negatively impacting the buyer’s experience?  Given that 75% of software companies that try to move down market fail, is it possible to capture this huge and growing market without impacting long terms customer value metrics and CAC?  

Last week, Wes Bush organized a fantastic virtual summit focused on product-led growth.  I was fortunate enough to share the stage with other SaaS companies talking about their go to market strategies.  The approaches varied widely: 

  • Leverage chatbots and business development reps (BDRs)
  • Offer scheduled demos
  • Provide product trials 

Each approach has its merits and challenges, as it relates to SMB sales.  As the CEO of an SMB SaaS company, I’ve experienced all three of these approaches as a buyer.  If you’re trying to target SMB buyers and struggling with resources versus revenue, check out my observations.  Is this how you’re treating your buyers?  

Chatbots and BDRs

  • It’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon and I’m doing my research on a product. The bot kindly informs me that “Joe”, the sales guy’s out of the office, but I can access his calendar and schedule a time to speak with him next week.  Funny how we expect our buyers to buy when it's convenient for us.
  • I’m in the market for marketing automation software and connect with one of the larger platforms I’ve worked with in the past. After a couple of interactions with the BDR and requests to see the product, I’m cut off.  Seeing the product requires someone to show it to me and apparently our organization’s too small to allow further sales resources to be applied.  However, I can download the free trial and experience the product for myself.   


  • Many of the demos I get are given by sales reps. No offense folks, but the majority of these are really bad.  As a former demo guy, I know first-hand that even the best sales reps don’t necessarily know how to give a demo. 
  • The CEO or CTO is the “only” person who can demo the product. As the CEO of a startup myself, I totally understand why – you’ve got to jump on every opportunity.  However, have you calculated your cost per demo?  And, given the low conversion rate of early stage demos, is this really the best use of your time?
  • Like other startups, my small team wears multiple hats - we're busy. When we’re researching and buying products, we don’t have time to go through the traditional speak to a rep, schedule a demo, see a demo, just to figure out which vendors to shortlist.  And by the way, we have even less time to figure out most trials. 


  • Great research from Patrick Chase and Tomasz Tunguz at Redpoint talking about the average conversion rate for unassisted trials of 4% - and highlighting that if you want to do better than that, you have to invest in sales support.   If you're a SaaS company looking to sell into the SMB market, are you trial-ready? Is your business geared towards providing the right level of support (without impacting CAC)?
  • I’m not surprised by these statistics. Too often, my only option to experience a product is to sign up for a trial.  Too many products are complicated and unintuitive, and I invariably give up.  When I do get “sales support”, it’s often in the form of an email, prompting me to check out some functionality.  Unless I’m in the product at that time, it’s rare I make the time to read the email and apply what I’ve just read to my trial.  

Regardless of what market you’re selling into, success increasingly depends on aligning your sales process with your buyer’s process.  In the case of SMB this may mean: 

  • Allowing individual buyers to learn about your product individually on their time (not just 9 – 5 on your schedule)
  • Allowing the buying team to learn about your product together at the time that’s most convenient to them.
  • Figuring out a better way for your sales team to give demos.
  • Letting buyers experience the product for themselves, before committing to a trial.
  • Pro-actively supporting them during a demo or trial based on “in product behavior”
  • Automating the process, by automatically connecting the byer to other information based on prior activity or inactivity (and I’m not talking about sending timed email). 

The smaller the organization you sell to and the lower the ACV, the more you MUST help them do the buying work on their own – but in a way that aligns with how they work. If any of my experiences and observations sound uncannily familiar, leave a comment or send me a message.  I’d love to chat about your experience and explore a better and cheaper way to grow your SMB revenues.  If you’d like to check out what that looks like, just go to our homepage, www.omedym.com for a quick product experience on your terms.


Topics: Buyers journey, Customer experience, "Chatbot", "SaaS", "Product-led", "Product-centric", "Product demo", "Product trial"