Bredin Report: Increasing Telecoms Sales to SMBs

SMBs are feeling pretty optimistic: 35% of them expect to grow by double digits this year, and 10% expect to grow by more than 100%. That translates into plans to invest in telecommunications services — whether to improve internet access speed or upgrade a phone system. SMBs understand what being connected — to customers, prospects, vendors, peers, remote workers, influencers, and others — means to their business.

To find out how you can boost sales to SMBs, we surveyed 500 U.S. SMB principals. In our Fastcast (originally recorded on 6/21) you’ll find actionable insights on how SMBs learn about, research, and make telecoms purchase decisions; their purchase intent and timing; awareness of and trust in 39 leading telecoms brands; their content preferences; and how you can improve the telecoms sales process.

Here are some of survey highlights:

Purchase intent and timing

SMBs this year are most likely to buy new or additional (or upgrade) cellphones (34%), followed by high-speed internet access (26%), tablets (22%), routers / switches / internet access points (21%), handsets (17%), and phone systems (16%).

Larger SMBs will adopt telecoms solutions most aggressively; businesses with 100–500 employees plan to buy cellphones (60%), routers / switches / wireless access points (56%), high-speed internet access (52%), and handsets (44%).

SMBs generally make a telecoms solution purchase decision within a month. They decide most quickly on cellphones (33% buy within a week), followed by high-speed internet access (27%) and tablets (26%).

Smaller SMBs are more likely to make a purchase decision in less than a month, while midsized SMBs generally need a month, and the largest SMBs need between one and three months.

Why do SMBs buy telecoms solutions?

To improve data security, first and foremost; 60% rate that as important, followed by “to improve performance/business processes” (53%), “current solution is dated/not working well” (52%), and “to take advantage of growth opportunities” (47%). The younger the SMB principal, the more important data security is (67% for Millennials vs. 55% for Boomers).

Connecting with SMBs

How can you connect with these potential buyers? SMBs are most likely to first learn about new telecoms solutions via search (35%), followed by YouTube and peers / colleagues (tied at 34%). To conduct research on your offerings, they are most likely to use online reviews (43%), followed by search and the resource section of your website (tied at 42%). To make a final purchase decision, they are most likely to rely on a call or meeting with your sales representative (26%). After that, they are most likely to use an external / third-party IT consultant or other consultant (19%), or in-house IT and other staff, a peer/colleague, the product section of a vendor’s website, and a retail store (tied at 17%).

Boosting trust — and sales

What can you do to increase SMB sales? Well, start by focusing on reliability; 67% of SMBs rate that as an important aspect of purchasing telecom services, followed by “easy to set up and implement” (62%), “easy to use” (60%), and “low lifetime cost” (59%).

How well do telecom vendors actually perform on these aspects? Only 45% of SMBs rate their vendor’s reliability as high, despite its importance. Likewise, only 44% were satisfied with their vendor’s ease of setup / implementation, followed by 40% who consider their vendor solution easy to learn and use.

The role of content in selling telecoms to SMBs

While many aspects of selling telecoms to SMBs are difficult for a marketing department to change, offering content is a relatively easy and inexpensive tactic to boost SMB traffic, trust, and transactions. Almost three-quarters (72%) of SMBs think more favorably of vendors that produce business and technology management advice. In addition, 68% agree that content makes them more likely to buy from that vendor, and 69% agree that content makes them more likely to remain a customer. Content works especially when targeting Millennials — 92% say they think more favorably of vendors that provide business and management advice.

The content SMBs want from you

Unsurprisingly, SMBs most want advice on “business development / sales and marketing” and “technology” from telecom companies — 41% rank those topics as important. They are also interested in tips and advice on operations (32%) and financial planning and money management (26%).

In terms of formats, SMBs most want analyst reports from telecoms companies (47%), followed by email newsletters (34%), articles (32%), printed sheets, booklets or guides (30%), and case studies (26%).

And the winner is…

AT&T: 71% of SMBs are highly aware of AT&T, followed by Verizon (67%), Apple (64%), Sprint (54%), and T-Mobile (53%). Respondents from larger SMBs are more aware of all the brands we surveyed than those from the smallest businesses.

The most trusted brand? Apple — 34% “trust very much.” The next most-trusted brands are Verizon (32%), AT&T (31%), T-Mobile (22%), Sprint (20%), and Time Warner Cable (20%).

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About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.