Editor's Note: Not long ago I conducted an audio interview with small business expert Andy Birol (see his earlier contributions in our Small Business Experts Directory). With so many companies these days interested in selling to small business owners, I wanted to know what Andy saw as the top mistakes vendors make when selling to small businesses and how to avoid them. Andy is himself a small business owner and he counsels many other business owners. He is a colorful, outspoken guy and I knew he would not hold back. Whether you represent one of the many small businesses whose target market is other small businesses, or whether you represent a large organization, check out this interview. Below are selected quotes of Andy's from the interview, or you can listen to the podcast or read the transcript. -- Anita Campbell, Editor Andy Birol on mistakes when selling to small business owners: ...[Y]ou should always give your small business accounts -- whether they're prospects or customers -- to individuals that have had at least a close encounter of the second kind, if not the first. For example, Lowes and Home Depot always hire individuals in their stores that have been contractors, so that when a contractor comes in, they're speaking to somebody that can identify with what it means to be a small business. So, if you can't hire ex-small business owners yourself, or retired ones, look around and see if you can at least hire their kids. Or hire folks that have already worked in a small business. Recognize that when you're selling to small business, you're on a series of dates with an owner. And since it's so personal -- because it's their money, it's their company, and it's their problems -- the last thing they're looking for is a long term commitment from the get go. So, if it sounds like a great idea to make a six-month commitment, I'd ask you to think about making a six-day commitment or a six-week commitment. ... [Never] think of business owners as this giant inanimate mass but rather understand they are as segmented as every other part of the formerly mass market has now been chopped into. Let me give you a great example. You should version your copy when you are writing to small business owners in terms of whether they are at the stage of survival or the stage of success. Those are completely different headsets and to speak to all business owners, even in the first person, as if they're all surviving or as if they're all successful is to probably alienate half of them. The majority of us want some small part of our miserably overstressed lives to get marginally better for a short period of time, which in turns really delights us. And when you think of the small business owner's market, you're talking about something not too different than the upscale mass market. So rather than try to sell them a total solution for which they've never asked, why not pick a bite-sized battle? Listen to the interview by clicking the player below. Or read the transcript: Five Mistakes Selling to Small Business (PDF opens in new window).