It is estimated that businesses lose, on average, 14% of their customers every year. The good news is that replenishing those ranks can make for an extremely-rewarding enterprise. Selling goods and services to big business is one of the most lucrative markets in the American economy. In January of 2013, inc.com reported the findings of Angelique Rewers, CEO of the The Corporate Agent, who said that “Every year corporations in the United States spend more than $2 trillion buying services and products from other companies.” On top of that, enterprise companies are projected to spend approximately $36 billion annually on sales software, alone.
What business wouldn’t want to crack into such a lucrative marketplace? And money isn’t the only benefit; partnerships with big-name corporate clients create new levels of credibility and brand exposure that can serve to attract even more big-name clients.
The contacts you will be dealing with at big corporations will be well established and knowledgeable in their field. Big businesses have greater cash resources, so they might be willing to accept certain levels of risk or uncertainty — provided that the proposed add-on value you’re offering warrants it. But, that doesn’t mean selling to big business is a cakewalk. It’s not.
Navigating your way into a business relationship with well-established companies can be difficult. Key decision makers generally already have a surplus of contacts and established partnerships with other sellers. As such, you’ll have to prove conclusively that what you’re offering meets their business needs, and you’ll have to make that case without the benefit of a lot of inside information. Still, even if you’re not selling a premium business solutions package like sales cloud enterprise edition, the time and effort required to build a business relationship is generally worth the effort.
So, what does it take to upgrade your game to the level of enterprise sales? Here are a few tips:
You can’t expect busy decision makers to take the time to update you on their business. After all, they aren’t there to make your job easier; they’re there to see if you can offer their business any value. Don’t even bother them unless you have first researched the company, as well as the market conditions under which it operates. Knowledge of your potential client’s business issues and objectives, and a minimum working level of expertise in the processes they employ to achieve critical success factors, will help you formulate the kind of value you’re offering.
Think of a big company as a collective of smaller entities. From there you can identify which of the smaller entities your product will benefit, and start looking for contacts to reach out to. Unless you’re doing full-scale enterprise software sales, pursuing opportunities in one of the small subsets of an organization will likely be a much more effective strategy than attempting to take your sales pitch directly to the CEO (or other high-ups). Focusing on small subsets will take the edge off any intimidation that may factor in when pursuing a relationship with the entire marketing department of a large enterprise. Once you have a foot in the door, you can work your way up to meeting the major decision makers, should it prove to be necessary.
According to success.com, you should plan on contacting key decision makers at least eight to ten times, and C-level executives 12–14 times, before scrapping the prospect. Don’t take this fact personally; decision makers within large businesses are often very busy, and may need continued contact before giving your proposal consideration. However, you can optimize the process by deciding which values you want to emphasize with each contact, and then spread the overall proposition across multiple emails and voicemails to the various contacts.
Knowing the right price to ask involves walking a fine line. Big companies may have big bank accounts, but they didn’t get to where they are by spending on frivolous expenses, and the aftermath of the recent recession has made many companies more cost conscious. On the other hand, that’s no reason to undermine the benefits of the business relationship by offering cut-rate services. Getting the most value out of investments may be essential. However, cheap is not the same thing as valuable. If you have done your homework, you should be able to make a compelling, quantifiable endorsement for the ROI that your product or service can produce. When possible, use case studies in your proposal process from past customers whose businesses you helped to improve. Once you’ve proven the value that you bring to the table, then you can confidently ask for a fair price.
Big businesses don’t’ make spot decisions. They will investigate you before committing, and they will do so thoroughly enough to make sure that you can back up your claims. As such, there are two things that you’ll need to make sure of before you make any attempt at selling to an enterprise business: First, that your financials in order, and second, that your supply chain is running like a well-oiled machine. Initially, big business will treat the prospect of doing business with you as a risk. They’ll look into your credit history to make sure nothing is in the red, and they’ll want to know that your manufacturing or distribution systems enable you to deliver on your promises. The good news is that if you can prove yourself as being a sound investment, they’ll be more likely to commit to do business with you, now, and in the future.
The process of selling to big business can be intimidating, frustrating, and labor intensive. You will most likely find yourself needing to match the frenzied pace of key decision makers, but scoring the final goal pays dividends down the road. Angelique Rewers, who specializes in helping small businesses land corporate clients, told inc.com that, “according to the Women’s Business Economic National Council, within two years of adding the first corporate client to their small business, women entrepreneurs experience an average increase in revenue of 266.4%. Presumably it’s about the same for male entrepreneurs.”
Selling to big business requires a different approach than selling to small and medium-sized businesses, and these opportunities generally don’t happen without a significant amount of effort on the part of the seller. Instead, it’s a long process that requires a great deal of fortitude. The real crux of the issue is to understand that you’re not really selling to a company; you’re selling to people who work in a company. As such, it’s all about the relationships. The relationships you build with the contacts you make are what will ultimately decide the outcome.
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