How to Up the Ante and Start Selling to Big, Corporate Clients
by Caron Beesley, SBA Online Community Moderator
Want to secure your first million-dollar deal in 2013? Crossing that threshold will probably mean that you’ll have to start selling to large corporate clients for the first time. It can be tough for small businesses, but not impossible. So what does it take? Here are some tips for upping your ante and selling to big, corporate customers.
Do Your Homework. Breaking into a new market or new client base requires planning. Start with identifying your new target market and then defining the value your small business can offer them.
Use online research to identify businesses that might be the right fit for your products or services. Specifically, try to identify potential weaknesses or threats they may be facing by reading press releases, reviews, media coverage, and financial reports. This will help you determine potential pain points. Check out what your target’s competition is up to – what are they doing that your target client isn’t?
Consider ways in which your business can help these prospects with their pain points and challenges. How can you help them succeed, be more efficient, save money or achieve their business goals? Don’t forget to assemble proof points and examples of how you’ve helped other (perhaps smaller) companies do the same.
Be Clear About Your Differentiators. Now that you know your target clients, what is it about your business that will make you stand out? Build a picture of your company – its culture, values, existing customers, products and services – and think about ways these combine to differentiate you. This blog can help guide you through this process: 5 Tips for Using Differentiators to Increase Your Small Business Sales.
Getting a Meeting. Getting that all-important first meeting will take time and there are many ways to go about it. Which combination of tactics will work really depends on who your customers are and what influences them. Which conferences/networking events do they attend? What information are they seeking online to help them make informed purchasing decisions (this will help define your web-based calls to action)? Which media do they read? You may also want to consider hiring a sales rep with experience selling to larger corporations.
Some techniques to consider include:
- Cold calling
- Customer testimonials and referrals
- Affiliate or partnership opportunities with complementary businesses
- Online marketing – make your website a source of useful information (blogs, case studies, webinars), not just product listings
For the best result, integrate your chosen techniques so that your messaging and your end goals are consistent across each tactic.
Making Your Pitch. This is your chance to make your homework work for you. Concentrate on your prospect’s pain points. How can your business help them ease their problems? Your pitch should be less about the product and more about why you are different, the value you bring and how you can make your client’s life easier and more profitable. Remember, larger corporations can be reluctant to switch vendors and may think it risky to work with a small business, so it’s vital that your business case focuses 100 percent on why it makes sense for your client to make the switch from another vendor to you.
Be Prepped and Ready for Questions. Aside from the points you make in your pitch, one of the most effective ways to stand out from your competitors is to come ready and prepared for all questions. Your meeting may include senior management and staff from pricing, contracts, legal, operations and procurement, so expect a diverse range of questions about your product, pricing, and terms, and be ready to answer promptly and clearly. If you can’t, quickly state that you will get back to them with a response within 24 hours, or one business day.
Alleviate Any Concerns About Your Being a “Small Business”. Small businesses can be a risky investment for corporations. They may be worried you can’t scale to their production needs or that you may go out of business or be acquired during the life of the contract.
Don’t ignore this concern. Be prepared for it and use your pitch to emphasize the benefits of doing business with a smaller company. Stress your agility, responsiveness, ability to customize products, etc. Mention any partners that can fill gaps that may leave them vulnerable. Act like a larger business by having a product road map or timeline that clearly shows what will happen when and when you anticipate your client will start to see results. By doing so, you’re already starting to prove your value before a contract has even been drawn up.