Knock, Knock, Knocking on Customers' Door

Time and again I have to ask myself, why many SMEs do have such a big challenge to improve their sales performance. One thing is for sure; it is not about lack of cash. Some of them make really good money with one single customer or just a few customers.

I recently met a small EU technology company, which is since 20 years in business, and has not been able to get their sales on the right track. Revenues are stable, but basically no growth. This has caused the gross margin to stay on the same relatively low level, despite the fact of having technologically very competitive products. The company is a typical B2B business.

To make the situation worse, most of the SMEs, Bellevue SME Advisors is talking to, have only very few customers. The company’s future is standing only on very few pillars.

Another one SME that I know is making almost 25mioEuro in sales since years and cannot get growth. Most of the sales comes from the company’s domestic market. Export is basically neglected, despite the fact that it has already since years its own subsidiaries in selected countries.

I know most of the SMEs that I visit have some kind of technological background. Does it imply that technology and sales do not play well together? I do not think so.

The entrepreneurs I have met are highly smart persons combined with their determination that only a real pioneer can have. However, I have observed their way of thinking and realized there is a very typical human ingredient here.

That is, being change averse and feeling uncomfortable on an unfamiliar terrain. Doing sales is full of uncertainties. A “gatekeeper” frequently turns down a salesperson placing a sales call.

Overcoming complacency is a major issue in EU SMEs that have been able to achieve a certain level of sales. Leadership is required to “throw out the cushions of success.”

Also I have got comments from several SME entrepreneurs that they want to be careful not to push sales activities, because they are afraid of how they can handle the production.

What a beautiful challenge to have: getting production running on a higher gear, while customers are crying for your products.

The leader of the SME must show by example that new sales, new customers, new regions, new product ideas, new sales partners are absolutely vital for the company’s future and sudden extraordinary high demand is a fun challenge to have.

SMEs leaders must embrace the uncertainty and accept that strongly forward driving sales persons are a blessing for the company.

Keep on knocking on customers’ door. It is a numbers game and you better not miss this game.

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