Bredin Report: How do SMBs Want to Work with a Salesperson?

We recently fielded an SMB Pulse survey of 500 principals of U.S. companies with up to 500 employees. Among other things, we wanted to understand how SMBs prefer to engage with a salesperson when they are researching products or services for their businesses.

As is often the case with SMBs, there are significant differences by company size. Almost half (46%) of SMBs with fewer than 20 employees (very small businesses, or VSBs) prefer to do all product or service research themselves – i.e., they do not want to engage with a salesperson at all. This is significantly higher than the 29% of SMBs with 20 to 99 employees (small businesses, or SBs) and 33% of SMBs with 100 to 500 employees (midsized businesses, or MBs) who are “sales-avoidant.” While this may seem counterintuitive, since SMBs with the fewest resources would seem to need sales help the most, VSBs may see sales interaction as inefficient and time-consuming.

The majority of the remainder – 38% of VSBs, 43% of SBs, and 37% of MBs – do most research themselves, but are open to engagement with a salesperson. In other words, roughly two in five SMBs, regardless of company size, are “sales-neutral,” neither enthusiastic about nor strongly averse to connecting with your sales team, whether it is direct or indirect.

How SMBs Prefer to Work with a Salesperson

Which of these best describes how you prefer to work with a salesperson when you are researching a product or service for your business?

How SMBs Prefer to Work with a Salesperson by Company Size


Roughly one in four (23%) of MBs and SBs – but only 14% of VSBs – are “sales-positive,” i.e., they like the help of a salesperson but supplement that input with their own research.

So who is enthusiastic about getting help from a salesperson? MBs, although only a few of them — roughly one in 10 — (7%) rely “pretty much exclusively” on a salesperson, versus 4% of SBs and only 2% of VSBs.

The takeaway, of course, is that you need to make it easy for any kind of SMB to research your products – whether through a wide array of comprehensible content on your site for busy VSBs, or active sales outreach for “sales-exclusive” MBs. In sales engagement, it is critical to make the interaction as efficient as possible. For example, enable your prospect to easily determine the benefits or savings your solutions provide, to see how companies like theirs have benefitted, and minimize the effort on their part to get a quote.

Need help understanding and/or engaging SMBs? Bredin can keep you up to date on evolving SMB needs and challenges through quick-turn, actionable market research. We can also help you develop high-value content and social posts to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion, and revenue.

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.