Selling your product or service is the ‘critical event’ in business. We have taken this fact for granted, especially if our company is in growth mode or if we are bombarded by so many other important actions as we grow our businesses. For mid-sized companies, the path to success often lies through selling to large companies or organizations, or developing strategic partnerships with these large organizations. While the rewards can be high, it can be a challenging process, particularly if you don’t have clarity on how decisions are made in larger organizations. Here are a few tips that will reduce your frustration and increase your sales effectiveness with larger prospects.
Tip 1: Start selling to the middle
While conventional thinking is that critical decisions are made at the top of large organizations, the reality is that the mid-level of management has tremendous influence on both the content and outcome of decisions. Focus your attention on understanding the pressure points that exist, and are articulated by middle management. Develop unique solutions which reduce risk and create value to those in that middle layer, and they will help the decision makers see the value proposition and close sooner.
Tip 2: Partner with an internal ally
When you go to a foreign and exotic country, it is often wise counsel to get a local guide with knowledge, contacts and experience in the area you plan to tour. Selling to a large company can be very similar. Spend the time to cultivate a relationship with an internal ally who will at least be supportive of your sales effort, if not a downright champion. They can then help you navigate the decision-making process, which will speed up your execution and decrease your probability of risk.
Tip 3: Know who is the decision maker
It may be strange, but often the person you are working with may not be the decision maker and may not even know who is! Spend the time to find out if there is a strong need, does the budget exist and who will ultimately make the purchasing decision. You can achieve this by asking a series of diplomatically-worded qualifying questions. Never assume, do your homework to find out, and then tailor your approach accordingly.
Tip 4: Mitigate their risk
Generally, people that work in larger organizations have a lower risk profile and are more interested in keeping their jobs than helping you close a sale. Take the time to understand their risk perspectives and mitigate accordingly. Even superior cost and performance benefits may not be sufficient to justify the risk. For instance, if you are introducing an early stage technology product or service, cite other customers with testimonials. Look at it from their perspectives and be open to novel solutions.
Tip 5: Achieve 7 points of sales contact
You may have heard that it takes around 7 points of contact to close a sale. This is especially true in B2B transactions with large companies, partly due to its complex structure and decision making, but also because of the more risk-averse nature of the corporate culture. So, persevere and expect that you will have to make multiple sales calls before you close. Keeping going back, while using these tips as a guide to improve effectiveness.
Tip 6: Know their pace
A big company or large organization will generally work on their timeline, with some exceptions, so plan accordingly. This is influenced largely by clarity around pressure points (is there a need?), differentiation (is your solution the best to fill the need?), budget cycles (do they have the money?) and decision making (who decides and why?). Keep multiple irons in the fire and don`t do anything rash if the decision seems long in coming. Perserve and you will be rewarded.
Tip 7: Know your ABCs – always be closing!
Don’t forget that the prime objective is to close the sale! By keeping that in your mind at all times, you can hone your pitch and consistently deal with objections as you keep the sales process moving along. Keep the lines of communication open and keep suggesting ways to move the process along. Own it and the decision will come sooner.
Of course, each industry and company will be unique and you should tailor your approach accordingly. However, if you are interested in accelerating the growth of your company by closing bigger sales more quickly and developing long term customer relations with large companies and organizations, these 7 tips will help make it happen.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.