Selling to Big Companies

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Summary written by Daniel Morales (become a content creator)
Created about 1 month ago.
Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath

After the first reading, I strongly suggest a focus on your value proposition. If you can’t clearly articulate the business results that customers realize from using your product, service, or solution, then the rest of the book is a moot point. Weak value propositions are the most common root cause of ineffective selling

Part One: Accepting the Challenge

Why Nobody Calls you Back
You have to learn what it takes to crack the corporate code in order to land a meeting with key decision makers. There’s no magic involved, just a lot of rethinking of what you’re doing. 

Successful sellers today spend significantly more time thinking, analyzing, researching, and preparing for their client meetings than average sellers do. They’re extremely “thought-full”, and this singular quality is what determines the outcome of all their interactions with customers. 

If your “message” to customers is perceived as self-serving, no one will want to meet with you. Successful selling starts from a solid, in-depth understanding of your customers. You have to think, feel, sense, and evaluate from their perspective in order to develop and implement an effective account entry strategy

Key Points:
  • It’s tough to set up meetings with prospective buyers at major corporations; the difficulty you’re experiencing is not in your imagination
  • It’s not going to get any easier for you in the future. Multiple marketplace factors are converting to create a “perfect storm” for sellers. 
  • Corporate decision makers are normal people who just happen to work for a large company. They are not imbued with superhuman qualities
  • The traditional approach to setting up appointments makes you sound like a self-serving salesperson  whos is interested only in your own success
  • To break through the barriers erected by corporate buyers, you need to develop new account entry approaches today 

Doing Business with Big(ger) companies

In some respects, big companies are a lot less price sensitive than smaller businesses. They recognize the good people and products aren’t cheap. 

The fastests way to get into a big company is through one of its functional areas. Breaking a big company into bite-sized parts is the best way to begin. It prevents you from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the organization, enabling you to turn your dream into a reality

When you’re trying to get into a big company, be willing to take whatever project you can - even if it’s not your favorite

Key Points:
  • Large corporations are constantly looking for outside resources that can bring them fresh perspectives and better value
  • Working with big companies can provide you firm with the potential for exponential growth. While leading the first contract may be tough, the second and third contracts can come virtually overnight
  • On the downside, losing a contract with a major account can be devastating to your business and financial picture
  • It’s easier to get into big companies if you break them into smaller sections; pursue opportunities with functional areas or departments within divisions for the easiest account penetration
  • Figure out which portion of your own offering addresses your prospect’s urgent and compelling needs and leverage that aspect to initially get your foot in the door. 

Understand Corporate Decision Makers
In today’s sales environment, you need to prove your business value first. Don’t try to be their friend. Show your value, demonstrate your worth, and make a difference. Then these decision makers want to have you as a friend. 

Key Points
  • Corporate decision makers are under extreme pressure to deliver ever-escalating results faster, but with fewer resources and at less cost
  • Your biggest competition today is the status quo. Unnecessary change only adds to the stress of an already overburdened workforce. 
  • Sales pitches or sales presentations are totally ineffective. The last thing decision makers want to do is spend their precious time listening to a talking brochure
  • To be heard in today’s crazy sales environment, shout the business value of your offering loudly and clearly. Don’t expect your prospects to infer it; they’re much too busy for that
  • Never, ever waste your prospect’s time. Make sure every conversation or meeting is well-planned and provides high value

It’s all about making a difference

The priority of today’s top sellers is making a difference. They see themselves as change agents who specialize in improving their customer’s business. These sellers know that if they help their customers solve their problems and achieve their objectives, success automatically follows

Successful sellers today must focus on finding problem spots or missed opportunities inside their customer’s operation that no other supplier is currently focused on. Once they identify these areas, they literally lead a sales campaign to help their prospect understand two things:
  1. Why change is an imperative and
  2. Why their solution is the answer.

This demand-generation focus is proactive and provocative, as opposed to the traditional seller who simply responds to existing needs. 

These top sellers are fully cognizant that their knowledge and expertise are the reasons that customers want to work with them. 

From the moment you target a big company, begin asking yourself these questions to help identify the difference you can make:
  • How are they handling things relative to my offering?
  • What are the potential problems they’re encountering?
  • What do I have in my tool kit that can have a positive impact on their business?
  • What do I (people in my company) know about their industry, market, processes, workflow, and challenges that would be helpful to them? Why?
  • How are their issues similar to other customers of mine?
  • What might they have tried already to address these problems or achieve these goals?
  • What strategic initiatives are already underway?

Please notice that none of these questions relates to selling. Everything is focused on business improvement. You’re a change agent for them and you need to think like one.  

Be explicit in the difference you make. So do calculations for them. Quantity the difference you can make. Give them numbers, percentages, time frames, and statistics. When you initially contact them, you need to shout out your value to them - loud and clear - so they can’t miss it. 

Everytime you talk with them, you must make reference to something that indicates your knowledge of their specific business, industry, challenges, or operation. If you don’t reference this knowledge, you won’t have any credibility. Prospective customers take distinct notice of you when it’s evident that you’ve done your homework. 

Key Points
  • In the new sales model, sellers focus on marking a difference, improving their client’s results, and solving problems
  • In order to build a relationship, you must create value with every single customer interaction
  • Corporate decision makers want you to bring them ideas, make them think, and expand their perspectives on what it takes to run their firm successfully.
  • Continually developing your own knowledge base is critical for your long-term success; become a business improvement consultant
  • Make the “experience” of working with you fundamentally different from other sellers. Realize that you are the key differentiator. 

Part Two: Build The foundation

Targeting: It’s not a numbers game

Which big companies are most likely to buy your products or use your services? Selling to big companies is not a numbers game anymore. It’s not about spending hours on the phone cold calling hundreds of people hoping to find someone who will meet with you. Invest all your sales time working on getting into those companies. In other words, you pick the companies with whom you want to work and then make it happen. 

Well-defined target markets increase the effectiveness of your marketing and sales efforts because everything you do is focused on that target customer. 

Prospective buyers “feel” like you understand their business, industry, challenges, and concerns in greater depth. They perceive you and your company as having greater expertise and superior products. 

The common characteristics of demographics are:
  • What industry are they in? Are they manufacturing or services businesses? Are they in telecom, medical devices, health care, or software?
  • How big are they? What are their revenues? How many employers do they have? Are they a regional form or global?
  • What are their distribution channels? Do they use direct sales? Distribution organizations? Online sales or catalogs?
  • What type of technology base do they utilize? What are their existing computer systems? Manufacturing processes?
  • Who are their customers? Do they sell in the B2B marketplace, B2B or B2 channel?
  • What is their development stage? Are they in the girth mode? Are they a mature organization? Or is their business declining?

The common characteristics of psychographics are:
  • What are the vision and values of the organization? How about the character and ethos of the firm? How committed are they to their people, customers or environments?
  • What is their reputation in the industry? Are they innovators or low cost providers? Are they early adopters of technology or laggards?
  • What are their management priorities? What’s most important to them - increasing sales, cutting costs, or improving operational efficiency? What are their critical success factors?
  • How would you evaluate their perceptions of your industry, product, or service offering? Positive, negative, neutral?
  • How would you define their management style? Are they top-down driven? Do they encourage individual and team contributions?

Identify challenges, issues, or problems that your product or service solves to them. What problems were they having? Issues such as:
  • Declining profitability
  • Delayed time-to-market of new products
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Declining market share
  • Finding good employees
  • Changes in customer requirements
  • Integrating multiple distribution channels

There’s no way you can do justice to more than 10 big companies. You have so much to learn about them first. There’s research to do, account entry strategies to plan, and people to meet. You’re just getting started. 

Claim your market now. Own it. Be the specialist, keep developing your expertise, and look for ways to grow your business within your segment. 

Key points:
  • Narrowing your market focus and closing the door on some opportunities results in increased sales and profitability
  • Buyers in today’s hypercompetitive markets have an endless choice of suppliers. They prefer to work with experts who understand their business
  • Clearly define the demographics and psychographics  of your ideal target market. Be as specific as possible so you can reduce the number of companies you’ll pursue
  • Analyze your existing customers to define the enabling conditions that make a company ripe for what you’re selling 
  • Once you’ve determined the exact parameters of your “best fit” clients, identify ten companies, maximum, that align most closely with these characteristics. 

Is your value proposition strong enough  
A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. It is focused on outcomes and stresses the business value of your offering. 

Corporate buyers are particularly attracted to phrases that are linked to their business goals and objectives. Start speaking in these terms and you’ll definitely attract their attention
  • Increased revenues or profitability
  • Faster time to market
  • Decreased costs
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Decreased employee turnover
  • Enhancing customer loyalty
  • Faster response time
  • Minimized risk
  • Additional revenue stream

Powerful value propositions open doors quickly!

Key points
  • Weak value propositions are the root cause of most seller’s inability to get into large corporations
  • Strong value propositions focused on the business value that companies get from using your product or service are of high interest to corporate decision makers. 
  • Specificity sells. Include numbers, percents, dollars, and time frames to make your value proposition stronger and more credible. 
  • A value proposition can include tangible value, intangible value, and opportunity costs. Different prospects may be interested in different aspects of the value your offering provides. 
  • Remember, your product or service is simply a tool. Buyers want it because of the results they get from using it. 

Strengthen your value proposition

Guidelines for strong value propositions
  • Talk customers, not products or processes
  • Tie results to critical business issues
  • Use business terminology
  • Include metrics or statistics
  • Refer to actual client successes

Determining your value proposition with only an internal analysis can be dangerous, tough. Outside validation by your customers is far more important. It doesn’t matter what your marketing department thinks is valuable. When it comes down to spending money, it’s only the perception of your customers that counts. 

Before you begin contacting corporate decision makers, it’s imperative to clarify your value proposition. Otherwise, no matter how hard you try, you’ll be ineffective in your attempts to get in. 

Key points
  • Conduct in-depth interviews with existing customers to discover the true value of your offering. They’re your best source of informations
  • Leverage the collective wisdom of your colleagues to help you define the value proposition inherent in your offering
  • To quantify business value, compare your customer’s prior measurements to the results they attain after using your product or service, engage new customers in the process of creating meaningful metrics
  • When lacking client measurement, speak in business terminology and leverage industry statistics. 
  • Test your value propositions effectiveness with existing or simulated customers prior to using it; modify it as needed

Knowing enough to get in

If you don’t invest time learning about an organization before getting in, corporate decision makers write you off as a lightweight. Having only a cursory knowledge of your targeted account’s business is simply no enough

They don’t expect you to know all the gory details, just to be reasonably up-to-date on what’s happening in their organization

When you target a major corporation, focus you initial research on these four areas:
  1. Find a point of entry. That means you need to find business units or divisions within the company that seem like they could be a good fit for your offering
  2. Learn about their business: If landing a contract with this big firm puts megabucks into your pocket, has high prestige value, or huge opportunities for growth, then it’s worth spending lots of time on.
  3. Search for openings: Look for this two things
  4. Problem indicadors - information that leads you to believe they’re struggling with challenges and issues that you could resolve
  5. Opportunity indicators - information that points to goals, objectives, or strategic imperatives that you can help them achieve or attain. 
  6. Key in on the Lingo: You need to speak your customer’s language. When you prepare your account entry strategy you’ll need that Lingo. Look fo the words that the company uses to describe their business, their problems, and their opportunities

Key points
  • Corporate decision makers expect you to be conversant about their company and business. That’s what they’re interested in -not your product or service
  • Use you pre call research to find a good point of entry into a large corporation, as well as to identify problem indicators and opportunity indicators.
  • Leverage multiple venues (e.g. online resources, customer interviews, employee conversations, trade shows) to learn about your prospective customers business, needs, issues, and challenges. 
  • Watch for trigger events to create significant opportunities for you to get your foot in the door.
  • The amount of time you spend learning about prospective customers should be directly proportional to their potential value to you. 

Leverage your network

Find good partners. First of all, ask yourself, “Who do I know today that’s in a business contiguous to mine?” and “Who else has the same target market as I do and sells to my primary decision maker?” You just need one person to get started down this path. Look for others who are doing well, have big company clients already, and want to grow. 

Key points
  • Traditional networking venues are waste of time if you’re looking for corporate decision makers; they don’t attend
  • Elevator pitches that clearly define your target market and what they’re struggling with help potential referrers point you in the right direction
  • Ley your existing business contacts know which firms you’ve targeted and who you’re trying to reach; they’re frequently a wealth of untapped information
  • For maximum impact, leverage strategic alliances to expand your business opportunities into the corporate marketplace

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