SME Employers of Sales Teams: are you settling for ‘just good enough’?

Guest Writer:  Michael Simonyi:   The sales recruiter SME & Mid-Market business leaders partner with to secure the talent needed to deliver growth.

You can connect with Michael here.

The team at Sales VA is committed to being an employer of choice. Our team of dedicated VA’s will be placed in Universities around the world, providing On Campus Employment to Universities and Real World Experience to University Students.

The majority of my clients are SME/mid-market businesses, typically owned by families, private equity or management – people with real ‘skin in the game’. When talking with leadership about their challenge in attracting the ‘right’ talent, there’s often a recurring theme: “we struggle to compete with corporates for the best people.” But does this belief lead to settling for someone who is ‘just good enough’, rather than someone who will genuinely raise the average?

Comments I typically hear include:

“Big companies can afford to pay more”

“They offer a career path that we can’t”

“People feel more secure working for them because of their size”

“They have budgets for training and development that we can’t match”

“We don’t have the marketing budget to support our sales team that corporates do”

“Our systems and processes aren’t as advanced as those in bigger companies”

“We don’t have the employer branding that corporates do – we don’t look as good on

someone’s CV”

I believe there are ways for SMEs to appeal to top talent and have them seriously consider mid-market businesses as employers of choice. I base that belief on practical experience – of helping people move from corporates to SME clients of mine over the past 11+ years and make profoundly positive impacts, both on the businesses they’ve joined and, just as importantly, on their own careers.

So, let’s explode a few myths….

“Big companies can afford to pay more”

Perhaps they do on occasion, but given the focus on taking costs out of businesses following the global financial crisis (GFC), in my experience they rarely do. In fact, it’s commonplace for a corporate to offer less than smaller businesses, based at times on the logic that ‘if someone wants to work for us, they’ll accept less, because of our brand.’ Then there’s salary banding, which means that a company will only pay within a certain salary range for a given position, regardless of the calibre of an individual candidate, and won’t deviate from that policy for fear of creating what they perceive as inequity.

“They offer a career path that we can’t”

Do they? The career ladder that’s often discussed at interviews has a lot less rungs on it post-GFC, with organisations flattening their structures. That means fewer potential opportunities for promotion, and a lot more bodies to climb over to get there.

“People feel more secure working for them because of their size”

When I’m interviewing and ask people what they’re seeking in a move, security is routinely near the top of the list. When I drill into what security actually means, size rarely features in the discussion that follows.

What is important? Clear vision and strategy, a well-established presence in a given market, a reputable product/service offering, and experienced leadership making consistent, commercially-sound decisions are the most common desires. All of which are well within the capacity of a small-to-medium-sized business to deliver.

“They have budgets for training and development that we can’t match”

Sure they do. Or they did, because those budgets were slashed with the onset of the GFC.

“We don’t have the marketing budget to support our sales team that corporates do”

Except that the marketing budget went the same way as the learning and development budget when the GFC hit. Along with most of the marketing team.

“Our systems and processes aren’t as advanced as those in bigger companies”

Perhaps, but there are plenty of corporates struggling to successfully implement large-scale IT system roll-outs, which is causing their sales teams no end of heartburn. And SMEs can utilise a CRM system, for example, as effectively as any corporate. Robust systems are about mindset, not size.

“We don’t have the employer branding that corporates do – we don’t look as good on someone’s CV”

When I look at someone’s CV, I want to know what they’ve achieved against key deliverables. I think most recruiters and hiring managers feel the same way. It’s fair to say people will assume that someone who’s worked within, say, a large FMCG or pharmaceutical business, should have received a solid grounding in sales disciplines, but the fact that someone has worked predominantly in corporates can also be a negative in some situations.


Think about your own business – will someone who’s only worked in corporate environments successfully make the transition to yours? I’m sure you’ve seen people fail to do so – I know I have.

Of course, there will always be a percentage of the workforce that specifically wants to work for a corporate. However, there are a number of advantages SMEs bring to the table, which in my experience, make a compelling case:

 Ability to genuinely make a difference: Which would you rather, to be a cog in a giant wheel, or to make a tangible, positive impact on a business and be remembered for it? The latter, right? Which environment do you think gives the best opportunity for motivated people to be able to achieve that?

 Access to decision-makers: People may not always get the answer they want, but they’ll get decisions made and probably be able to converse directly with the ultimate decision-maker in the process. Try getting that in a multinational.

 Flexibility: Around the make-up of remuneration packages, incentives, working from home, working hours. Of course there are limitations and business imperatives, but which environment is likely to be able to offer the greater scope for flexibility?

 Customer focus: Not that there can be absolutes on this, but I know which environment I suspect is likely to be more nimble and responsive to customer needs. And which environment will feel to employees as if they’re trying to turn the Titanic around to get an outcome for a customer.

You don’t need to go to extreme lengths to ‘brand’ yourself as an employer of choice, but giving real thought to just what it is that your business offers – and ensuring you present that in a compelling manner to top performers – will go a long way to securing the talent you’re really seeking.

Want more ideas as to what you can do at a practical level? Please drop me a line – I’m happy to help!


Nice To Meet You – How Would You Like To Be Communicated With?

This one is for the Sales People who are meeting numerous people per day.

It’s one for the Sales People who are really present with those they sit in front of.

The Sales People who really, truly, want to serve their clients.

To give them the best solution for their challenges.

But who are struggling to communicate with their clients in they style that their CLIENTS want to receive communication.

I am sure you have left at least 1 client meeting a week and felt that you missed creating a true connection with that client.  And that’s fine – you can’t connect with everyone.

But we can learn the techniques that will help us connect with more of them.

And the techniques will not only make your job easier – it will make the client happier – and that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

This short video will explain how to connect with your clients and build rapport in 2 minutes.  It sounds simple, but if you apply and practice these techniques, your connection ratio will improve massively.

PS. Feel free to use this information with your team!

PPS.  Want to make an even better connection once you have a signature on the dotted line?  Ask them how they would like to be communicated with… and then do it!



Don’t Sell Shoes To People Who Wear Thongs

Having a full sales funnel is the best! You’re busy, you feel like you are being productive, you’re hitting lots of your benchmarks in phone calls and appointments etc…

But you still aren’t hitting your targeted sales number!

Aargh! What is going wrong?

There are 2 things to ALWAYS keep in mind when it comes to lead generation.

1. Who is your target?

Here is a reminder for you. “Don’t sell shoes to people who wear thongs.” Simple. When you are prospecting, ask yourself, does this client wear shoes or thongs? Have no idea what I am talking about? Check out the video below.

2. How is your stature and what is your headspace, around picking up the phone?

Your stature plays a HUGE importance in determining your headspace, and how clients receive you on the phone. Stand up, pull your shoulders back, clear your throat.

These are both simple things that we all tend to forget about after a while.

Consider this your reminder!



Calling All Startups! Forget Growth Hacking… Focus on Selling!

I was at a Start Up function last week and something has really stuck with me since the event.

The Founders knew all about Growth Hacking… and nothing about Selling.

They knew how to get from 1000 to 10,000 users… but nothing about getting those first 1000 (other than outbound marketing.)

Maybe it was because most of them were in the B2C (Business 2 Customer) space, rather than B2B (Business 2 Business.)

From someone who is solely in the B2B space, and has spent all of their working life there, may I share something?

Those first 1000 users will happen so much faster if you stopped focusing on Growth Hacking, and started focusing on 1 user at a time.

I know, I know.  But Emma, that’s soooo not scalable.

And I absolutely agree.  1 user at a time is not scalable.  But it is definitely valuable for the first 1000.

Look at Slack.  They had a handful of initial users, and only focused on them for a long period of time.  Then, and only then, did they let it filter out organically for a little while longer.

And then they hit the GO button.  And boom!  They are now at 30,000+ users and growing… and now focusing on Growth Hacking strategies.

We have followed the same strategy.  We have a bunch of users we are focusing on, all of whom we have met with face to face.  We are getting feedback from them on a daily basis.  We are putting in time with our handful of agents who (when we hit the Go Button) will be distributing Sales VA for us, and getting feedback from them on a daily basis. Already, we have a waitlist of people whom we will be speaking with face to face to make sure we are a right fit for them.

And yes, we have ideas about what Growth Hacking Strategies we would like to test and measure when we get to our own magic number of 2000 users.

So, if I can share anything to help other Startup Founders that may not have the Sales Experience that I do, it is this.

Focus on those first 1000.  Get REALLY familiar with them.  Know who they are and what motivates them.  Know what they like and what they really don’t like.  The only way to do that is to meet with them.  Invite 2 way communication.  Listen to them with no ego.  Walk beside them.

The 10,000 users after that will have a much better experience because you did.

What are your thoughts?  If you grew to your first 1000 users in a different way,  we’d love to hear from you!

Emma Monro – CEO of Sales VA.


A Day In The Life of a Salesperson.

So, I started my Sales Meetings really early the other day… so early, that I was able to capture the sunrise… and what a beauty it was!

On the 2 hour drive to my next appointment, I spent some time thinking about what sort of day my fellow salespeople will be having.  I know that some don’t start till 10am, and have their last appointment at 9pm.  Others, like me, start their day at 4am, but ‘kind of’ finish by 4pm.

Some schedule 6 sales meetings in a day.  Others only 2.

The curious side of me has decided to learn more, and so, open an invitation for submissions for a series we are calling:

A Day In The Life of a Salesperson.  

If you are a passionate salesperson, who would like to lift the lid, the good and the bad, on what we ‘do’ during our day, then please, feel free to submit the following!

1.  5 images of your day.  Be it of scenes, your desk, your office, your clients.  (You will need to get any people in the images to sign a waiver – you can print however many you need here.)

2.  50 words to describe each image provided.

3.  Your name, your company, and your LinkedIn profile/website url. (Your LinkedIn profile picture will be used.)

And email it all to with a subject line of ‘A Day in The Life.’

It may seem like a bit of effort, for a bit of exposure and raising your profile, but it will also create a difference in that 1 day, a bit of playfulness, if you like… and we could all do with a bit more of that!

I look forward to learning more about you through what you submit, and featuring them on our blog over time.

Have a productive day,

Emma Monro – CEO of Sales VA Pty Ltd.