Selling to a big company and getting their corporate accounts can be a huge boost to your small business’ bottom line. However, selling to big companies is tough. You need to understand the critical success factors for winning their business as well as the skills required to submit successful proposals and win bids. Even contacting big businesses to consider your small company as a possible vendor is difficult.
We interviewed Jill Konrath, author of the book Selling to Big Companies and an internationally recognized sales strategist & speaker, on how small businesses can start selling to big companies. Ms. Konrath helps salespeople crack into corporate accounts, speed up their sales cycle and win more contracts.
What are some of the key concepts for Selling to Big Companies?
Most sellers are caught in the old “dialing for dollars” mentality. When you’re selling to the corporate market today, that’s just about the stupidest thing you can do.
Corporate decision makers are so swamped these days. Their workload is continually increasing at the same time their deadlines and resources are shrinking. So, they need a pretty darn good reason to invest their precious time with a salesperson.
There is literally a “price of admission” to corporate accounts today. Decision makers expect you to be knowledgeable about their business prior to letting you in the door. And, you need to let them know that you’ve done this. Otherwise they’ll just think of you as another product-pushing peddler or self-serving salesperson.
Finally, keep your focus on the difference you can make for your customers. That’s all they care about. Not your product, service or solution. Those are only tools to help them achieve their goals and objectives.
How do you go about targeting the right accounts?
Many ways. Certainly the easiest place to start is with vertical segments so you can develop an expertise in a particular area. Corporate decision makers love to work with sellers who understand their needs, issues and concerns.
You can also analyze where your offering might have the biggest impact. For example, I spent many years focused on technology companies because I knew that they loved their techie stuff too much and it was hurting their sales.
Another key consideration is culture. I much prefer to be working with fast-paced, growth-oriented organizations because they’re much more aligned with who I am and what I bring to the table.
You talk about the importance of building value in the book. How do you create breakthrough value propositions?
You can only create breakthrough value propositions if you go talk to your customers and truly identify the impact you have on their organization. And, the best customers to talk with are the ones who switched to your company in the past year. They’re the ones who can compare you with the “old way,” giving you the quantifiable metrics that are so enticing to other prospects.
For example, several months ago I did sales training for the national account team of a large media/marketing firm. Each seller was expected to target one account they wanted to land as a client in the upcoming months. I recently learned they had an 87% close rate.
In today’s business environment, that’s phenomenal. When we add in the amount of revenue ultimately generated by those sales calls, their investment in the training program paid for itself many times over. Plus, they’ll get ongoing business from these new clients – which will also grow over time.
In short, you need to be able to talk the language of business instead of telling about your product/service/solution. And, you need to get as specific if you can with the value your provided. That’s the only reason that someone will give up their time to meet with you.
What advice would you give a sales person who is frustrated because nobody is calling them back?
The very first thing I’d suggest is that they listen to their message as if they were their customer. Most salespeople are appalled when they actually hear how they sound. That’s when they realize that their message is all about their company, their services, their products.
Next, I’d remind salespeople we live in a “Delete” world. They are 5 seconds away from being deleted at any time. Unless their message is to-the-point, timely and relevant, they will get deleted.
Then I’d suggest that they invest time researching their targeted prospect and develop an enticing voicemail message that is totally customer focused. This is incredibility hard for most sellers. Their bad habits keep creeping back in.
When I work with clients, I always have them read my book, Selling to Big Companies, prior to my training programs. Yet despite the fact that they now know what they’re supposed to do intellectually, putting it into practice is much harder than they expect.
They literally have to re-think their entire approach and come at it from a whole different angle.
What types of voicemail messages work best?
Well-researched ones that demonstrate knowledge of the prospect, his/her issues and concerns, strategic initiatives and newsworthy happenings.
For example, in my local business journal, I read an article about a technology company that had just received $15 million in venture capital funding. With this investment, they were focusing on helping their channel partners move upstream to get them calling on bigger, more profitable companies.
Here’s a message that would have worked:
“Bob. Jill Konrath calling. 651-429-1922. I was just reading about your recent round of VC funding which is being dedicated to helping your channel partners move upstream and calling on bigger companies. I have some ideas on how you can help them crack into corporate accounts and shorten their sale cycle. Let’s set up a time to talk. Again, this is (repeat name/number).”
Notice how is short, to-the-point and highly relevant to what’s happening in the company. That’s what works today.
Can you share a few best practices for overcoming obstacles and finding creative ways to get your foot in the door?
The best way to overcome obstacles is to eliminate them entirely. Most sellers create their own roadblocks because they start talking products and services to quickly.
Take a look at the voicemail above. If I shared that message with prospect, there is literally NO way they could say, “XYZ company does our sales training” or “We don’t have any money in the budget.” Those are not appropriate responses.
So forget objection handling and focus on objection elimination and you’ll be much further ahead.
How do you make an impact during the initial sales meeting?
Here are the essentials:
- Be knowledgeable about what’s happening. Know what’s going on in the company and their marketplace. Understand the key issues, challenges faced by the decision makers you’re working with. Learn about their goals, objectives, strategic initiatives, and more. In short, get smart.
- After your introductions/warm up, share an example of how you’ve helped other customers similar to them. Make sure you tell a full story that includes what they were doing prior to using your offering, what issues/challenges they were running into and what they couldn’t achieve if they stayed with the status quo. Then, expand on that by sharing the quantifiable business outcomes thy realized because they worked with your company.
- Next, transition to questions. Plan at least 10 thoughtful questions before you go in. Write them down and take them in the meeting with you. Having these questions prepared gives the meeting structure and frees you to really focus on the prospect.
- Finally, always suggest a logical next step. And remember – when you’re selling to big companies, it is NOT the order. It’s a follow-up meeting, a presentation, a demonstration or something that advances the sales process to it’s next step.
How do you coach sales professionals to differentiate themselves from other sellers?
The differentiation is in the process of working with you. If you do everything I’ve suggested above, you will stand head over heels above 98% of the salespeople out there today.
You will be the differentiator – not your product or service. So invest in becoming an expert in your industry, market and even in the sales profession. It makes all the difference in the world.
Recommended Books on How to Sell to Big Companies:
- Playing Bigger Than You Are: How to Sell Big Accounts Even if You’re David in a World of Goliaths
- Selling to the C-Suite: What Every Executive Wants You to Know About Successfully Selling to the Top
- How to Say It: Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies from the World’s Top Sales Experts
- Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales
- The Fundamentals of Business-to-Business Sales & Marketing
- 8 Lessons in Managing Large Accounts
- How to Use Voice Mail to Increase Sales
- Evaluating Financing Options for Your Business: Myths and Facts
- Manage Cash Flow through Accounts Receivable Factoring
- The Enthusiastic Employee: 16 Myths on Employee and Performance Management