Sales Result | Sales Blog

    By Chris Strandin July 6, 2022

    SMB vs. Enterprise Sales Reps - Key Differences

    Selling to the Enterprise is very different than selling to small and medium businesses (SMB). Typically, an enterprise business has at least a thousand employees, well defined policies and procedures, and does over a billion dollars a year in revenue. Conversely, small and medium businesses have less than a thousand employees, with revenues short to well short of a billion dollars a year. These two types of accounts have different mindsets, and sales reps need to understand the differences to approach them for better results. 

    Every business is different, but there are some tried and true differences that can set you on the right path. First, let's explore the differences between selling to enterprise and SMB accounts. 


    When it comes to timeline, enterprise accounts move slowly, methodically, and strategically much more often than SMB accounts. SMB accounts want fast results, and while they may be more emotionally and personally invested in buying decisions, they are nimble enough to move faster if they believe they will benefit from your solution. 

    The savvy sales rep will use this information in forecasting their deal internally, but it should really impact how you approach the account, the questions you ask, and who you get involved. If you know that it's going to be a slow enterprise deal, you should be looking for multiple champions, multiple decision makers, and deliver value to each group without getting frustrated at the timeline. With an SMB, most of the time you're going to need the CEO's sign off, so the faster you can get in front of them, the better off you'll be. 



    Enterprise accounts and SMBs view money very differently. Typically SMBs are going to be more concerned about cash flow, the timing of spending money, and the speed of getting an ROI on your product. 

    For enterprise accounts, money is viewed far more often with the mindset of long-term strategic return. Whereas 18 months to see an ROI may feel like a lifetime for a small business, an enterprise may have the view that 3-5 years is a sufficient ROI payback depending on the project. The other important factor when working with enterprise accounts is their budgeting cycles and budget allocation, an additional complexity that is much less rigid in SMB. 


    Risk tolerances are different between SMBs and enterprise accounts, and they have very different ways of viewing Risk. Smaller companies are much more likely to take calculated risks, try something and tweak it later, or adopt a solution before it's 100% ready to go. SMBs are more likely to be early adopters, and can pivot much more easily if the risk calculation doesn't pay off. 

    For the enterprise, risk is a critical part of evaluation options, especially in software and tech. Lawsuits, data breaches and security concerns have made risk a central buying focus for the C-suite down throughout the organization. Unlike a small business, an enterprise may select a solution with fewer features, that's more expensive, and harder to use it it meets security requirements. 


    Enterprise accounts are going to look for certain stamps and status more often than some SMBs. There are plenty of exceptions, but enterprises are more likely to look for enterprise-level security, carbon-zero, green, "best-in-class", "industry standard", etc. When making buying decisions, enterprises typically conduct their own research, leveraging internal teams to scour technical documents and conduct a buying analysis. 

    Small to medium businesses often lack the manpower to conduct independent analyses for buying decisions, heavily relying on other customer reviews and testimonials. What they're often looking for is "will this work for my SMB", fearing the product was built for enterprise and won't work for them. 

    Artboard 3Enterprise v SMB2


    What Makes These Reps Successful?

    Now that we've discussed buying habits of enterprise and SMB accounts, what makes enterprise reps and SMB reps excel with these two very different sales cycles?

    SMB Reps

    Some of the most successful SMB sales reps adapt quickly, work quickly, and move quickly with their nimble accounts. Small business moves fast, and these reps set themselves apart by responding quickly to emails and phone calls, delivering collateral, and asking for the close early and often. Successful SMB reps are able to ask good questions to quickly understand the value drivers of the CEO (or other decision maker), and provide a compelling case for how thier product or service will serve that goal. 

    • Mirror prospect's energy, cadence, 
    • Leverage stories of similar SMB customers
    • Ask for the close early, and often
    • Be mindful of spend vs. cashflow objections
    • Keep conversation about results and business outcomes


    Enterprise Reps

    Enterprise sales reps are successful when they either have a wealth or expertise, or are able to effectively quarterback internal resources to provide the wide-range of needs of enterprise accounts. These reps are most successful when they use an organized plan to identify and meet with multiple decision makers, sniffing out the goals of each group, and tailoring effective messages to each group. 

    • Understand all requirements vs. wants
    • Meet and understand all stakeholders/decision makers' goals
    • Be patient with their sales cycle, but keep the pressure on
    • Leverage account plans to map complex individuals, strategy, and tactics
    • Keep conversation to long-term strategy when possible



    If you're interested in improving your sales strategy for enterprise or SMB accounts, Sales Result offers strategy, training, process, and coaching options to supplement sales leadership's direction with a Winning Sales Foundation

    Contact us for a free 30-minute sales consultation to discuss your SMB or enterprise goals.

    Topics: Sales Management, Sales Process, Sales Playbook / Training, Sales Strategy

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