Far too many SMEs are not explicit about what their business does and make it harder for themselves when selling.
It may be that they need the work. It may be a lack of clear, precise thinking about what business they are in. Or it may be over confidence in their ability or they simply want to help clients even if they don’t really know what they are doing.
However, all this can lead to costly mistakes, whether paying for external expertise or time spent on unfamiliar matters, disappointed clients and a damaged reputation.
Much better and more impressive is the business that knows precisely what it can do, can ask the right questions to clarify what a prospective client is looking for and, if it cannot supply it, has the confidence to say “no”.
Even better, if it knows its sector well enough and works with others in the sector then suggesting another firm can yield the benefits of referral and collaboration.
The honest plumber
A plumber might be asked by a potential client: “Do you do tiling?” Several might answer “yes” to this question but rarely do plumbers specialise in all aspects of tiling.
First there is the preparation of walls or floors and need for them to be stable and or waterproof, few plumbers will be aware of the alternative waterproofing systems that might be used in shower walls as a base for tiling. Again, few plumbers will know much about the different types of tiles, tiling cement and grout that might be used in different circumstances, let alone have experience of using an electric tile saw or laying out tiles so they will look right at the edges and corners.
The same plumber might be asked by a client to fit a bathroom, kitchen, boiler, unvented water heater, central heating and any number of other jobs involving water in the home. And how tempting it must be to say “yes”. Better is to either say “no”, or offer to do the plumbing elements and introduce other specialists, or to retrain and become a tiler, or become a project manager of the various trades, but never say “yes” unless you really do know what you are doing.
The honest broker
Finance brokers are a particular group of people I meet who seem incapable of being clear what they specialise in. Trying to find out what they sell would involve conversations about sales ledger finance, vehicles, plant & machinery, mortgages, even grants and investment but despite the promise they all too often were only offering sales ledger finance solution.
It is always better to develop a reputation as an outstanding expert in a defined product or service than as a generalist “jack of all trades and master of none”.
It is also more impressive when a business has the confidence to say “no” when what a client is looking for falls outside their remit.