Why SMB Reps Struggle in the Enterprise. And Vice-Versa.

Viewed in SaaStr

Not all sales functions are the born the same.

Product, Cost of Product and Sales Cycle Time

In fact, as most sales professionals will attest, it is really a gross oversimplification to label anything a “sales job” since there are such a broad number of sales categories that exist between the type of sales (consultative versus transactional), the cost of the product or service, the cycle time of the sales, and of course the product or service itself.

SMB vs. Enterprise

Two such categories that differ considerably, small and medium-sized sales (SMB) sales and enterprise sales, are described in this insightful article by SaaStr, the world’s largest community of SaaS executives, founders, and entrepreneurs.

The difference between these two categories is so vast that it demonstrates how broad and sometimes lacking in common denominators the sales function has become.

Hundred or more sales leads monthly in SMB

First, consider SMB sales. As SaaStr well documents, in this sales niche sales professionals commonly receive a hundred or more sales leads monthly from a company’s marketing or demand generation department. That also means the leads likely have been pre-screened in some capacity and, in the eyes of the company, maintain some characteristic that identifies them as prime candidates to acquire the company’s product or service.

But the exact opposite is the case with enterprise sales; in this sales function, the sales professional may be offered up to ten or so leads from the company but the identification of leads—the first step in the sales pipeline process—is part of the sales professional’s selling responsibilities.

Selling processes

Then there is the pace of the selling process and the duration of the selling cycle itself. As with the identification of leads, the difference when it comes to SMB and enterprise sales is strikingly different. In SMB, the volume of sales visits is high; a typical SMB professional might conduct four or five sales presentations in a given day. They also are commonly expected to close a good number of these sales leads monthly, typically at least eight.

Eight orders a month in SMB vs. one order a quarter in Enterprise

Conversely, the enterprise sales professional has both the luxury and challenge of a lower expectation of sales visits and conversions but also a more engaged and relationship-driven selling process. The enterprise sales professional may perform fewer sales visits in a week than the SMB professional does in a day, and he or she will typically close a proportionately smaller number of them than the SMB professional (one or two per quarter).


A final distinction between the two functions is compensation. Because SMB professionals will typically experience sales conversions quickly and in decent quantity, they benefit from commission compensation that accordingly will typically pay out fairly quickly.

But this is not the case with the enterprise sales professional who may go a significant period of time before closing a sale. As such, the enterprise sales professional is commonly compensated at an on-target compensation (OTE) rate to accommodate for the lengthier duration of their sales cycles.

As the headline of this article correctly implies, these distinctions are notable and important to recognize because they can be difference makers when it comes to a professional’s selling success.

Success requires different talents

Some sales professionals succeed in the fast-paced, transactional nature of SMB processes while others perform better with corporate support in sales leads and a lengthier and often more complex and personalized selling process.

Understanding whether a sales professional is better suited for SMB or enterprise sales is an important managerial decision, which best positions the sales professional for success.

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