I was asked the following question recently: “Is it different when you sell to a larger company than a small organization, a company that might make or break your revenue target rather than a small opportunity that simply nudges your revenue along the tracks”. I believe the answer to the question is – yes and no and here are my reasons why.
Making sure you are talking to your target audience, that you are in front of the Decision Maker and that you understand the client’s needs before you can persuade are the fundamentals of making a sale. These won’t change regardless of the size of your prospective customer. However, when you deal with a larger company you will need to develop this base and add other qualities and expectations to ensure that you maximize your success.
Before I look at these additional elements, I would like to add a disclaimer to this article. It is important that nobody reads this article as an instruction that you should only go after big targets. Obviously, some salespeople only look after large or ‘key’ accounts so their role will mean that they normally are working on bigger customer opportunities, however, I have seen that many of the sales people I work with are searching for a ‘Golden Nugget’ and this can be very dangerous. You need a mix of opportunities in your pipeline, from the smallest order to the mega-deal, and it is the focus on getting this right that is key
So, getting back to the topic at hand. I have listed some key areas to review in detail when selling to Big companies
Your Target Audience
No matter who you are selling to, doing some work to understand your target audience is key. There are many ways to do this, but the one thing to remember is that you need to spend more time in identifying whom to work on when they are large clients. (As a rule of thumb, I believe if the target is twice as big as another then you should spend twice as much time evaluating the prospect and preparing for the sale).
The reason being is that if you do this right, you are going to invest a lot of your time in trying to win the deal. If you are approaching a client that fits what you do, and you know you can add value, then these are clearly the ones to pursue. If you are simply going after them because they are a large company and the predicted revenue will look good in your pipeline, then you are losing out on more than you imagine. Time for a busy salesperson is critical and wasted time is not acceptable.
I would create a Qualification score that takes the emotion out of deciding if you are going after the account or not. Knowing they are the right targets will not only save time but help with your momentum and motivation
Ahhhhhh, patience and salespeople, not really a match made in heaven! I’m afraid there are very few quick wins out there when it comes to a large company making a decision. Once you have identified who you are going to go after you must plan your approach and be realistic on the time each step will take.
Be prepared and get in to the mind set that it’s not going to be a ‘one meeting wonder’ and that you are going to have to work at it. Set milestones to be where you are.
Maybe choose 3 or 4 targets with the understanding that the majority may not be ready to talk today and maybe one is. The others that may reject you today will come round again very quickly before you know it in fact, and you will find you have a great pipeline before you know it.
Web of Contacts
OK, so first you need to get in the door, you need somebody that will take the time to meet with you. Yes, going directly to the Decision Maker makes total sense. However, being more senior they may be more difficult to meet so take the approach where you “Shoot for the Moon”, and if you miss you will land among the stars’ approach. The key is to get in, to have that first meeting and to start understanding the customer’s needs.
Once you have the first meeting, if it’s not with the decision maker, contemplate your goal or goals for the meeting. Is it to sell to them? No, not at all. Your goal from this initial meeting will be to understand who’s who, where you can get more helpful information from and how you can add value. You want to understand who is close to the Decision Maker, who they listen to and are influenced by and finally, it’s very important to understand how sign offs are managed so that you can focus your efforts in the correct places.
This is key for the first meeting and is called ‘The Web of Contacts’. Consider whom you are meeting and your objective. Start with a blank piece of paper and build to your objective, while simultaneously ensuring that you are doing enough to make the person you are meeting a big supporter of yours. You are going to need them throughout the sale.
Be Like Sun Tzu
We all know that Selling Value is the key objective in sales. Understanding what the client needs and wants, and then showing them how you can assist them will always deliver success. Linking this to a monetary value is like the ‘cream on top of the cake’, the cake is fantastic the cream makes it unbeatable.
Now with smaller pieces of business, you can have one or two discovery meetings and then prepare a proposal. This is fine. However, if you are going to go after the ‘Big Fish’ then you will have to cover every angle. One meeting might lead to having to meet somebody else. Another meeting may mean you need to persuade your contact to gather some data for you and so on and on.
All the time these meetings are taking place, you are starting to build in your mind where you can add value. Some information you gain makes you excited as you feel it is an area that is key to the client and you can build on, others areas deflate you mean you may have to look elsewhere.
Well here is where Sun Tzu comes in to the equation. I love his quote ‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek a win’.
So how can a salesperson relate to this and what is the conclusion? Well, I’m sure you have all walked into a meeting with a presentation under your arm knowing you are going to win the deal. You have either found a key advantage over the competition or added value to assist their business that they would be mad to refuse. Therefore, you are going into battle knowing that you have already won.
Now, the opposite also happens. You are going to present on a wing and a prayer, with the hope that the client will like the price or that there is something else they see in the presentation that engages them. In my experience, the closing ratio for this type of meeting will be very low.
So why do we attend this type of meeting still hopefully ‘seeking to win’? It’s because as sales people we are optimistic. We will ‘give it a go’. Making presentations feels very close to getting the business. All true points but is it worthwhile or simply a waste of precious time.
My suggestion is that if you are sitting in front of the presentation you have prepared, and you don’t feel you can add any value for your target customer, do one of two things:
- Revisit your discovery and see if you have missed something. Maybe an advantage you found can add value to their business it may just be a different area of their business. Possibly there is a contact that you have tried to see, and you should try again to gain more before presenting. Review everything and contemplate further action before presenting a weak sales pitch
- Phone the client and explain that you feel at this stage you cannot improve on their current situation but would like to keep in touch. Many see this as a crazy move, but it builds trust with the client and saves you a lot of time and builds your credibility for next time.
The Presentation Meeting
Go all out to ensure the right people are in the room. If they have arranged the presentation and all the key people are not there, do what you can to delay until you get the right audience. I know this may sound difficult, but it really is the best approach as getting the message to the right people, hearing questions from the Decision Makers, understanding key objections and working on next steps must be done with the correct members of the buying team. You will not be able to understand where you are keeping momentum in the sale unless you have the right audience.
One note that I’m sure I don’t really have to put in this article, but I feel I will just in case, is:
Please, please, please, don’t just send in the proposal for the customer to review without you getting the chance to present it. 90% of your message will be lost, you will get zero feedback and you will be completely at a loss as to what to do next.
If it is a tender and there are no such meetings, ensure you have had the meeting beforehand. Even before the tender is released. If you are going to convince somebody you have the right value for him or her it needs to be in a face-to-face interactive environment.
Remember: What are the chances the client is going to say yes at the end of this presentation? Realistically quite slim. So, although you should have been closing throughout the sale, now it is essential to close for ‘Next Steps’. If they say they need time to consider, or compare pricing, or to discuss internally, then agree that is a great move but fix a time to have another meeting after they have completed their task.
So if they say, ‘we need a few days to review the pricing’, reply ‘of course you do. Why don’t we meet again at this time next week to see the progress of your review, as I’m sure you will have some more questions’? Do anything to get the next date in the diary. Momentum at this stage of the sale is EVERYTHING.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, there are many similarities between selling to a big customer and to a smaller one. The fundamentals are the same but there are key steps when selling to Big clients that must be taken with extra caution and patience. Getting all the steps right will ensure a smooth progression and closing the deal will be much more straightforward.
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