A few years ago, an associate of mine who is a real estate broker got clobbered by the housing crisis. But instead of folding up shop, he decided that if he was going to do fewer deals that they better be bigger deals. So he switched from selling single-family homes to commercial real estate. Not only did he survive, he thrived.
“Less work, more money,” is how he put it to me.
It’s a strategy any of us who have a small business can employ. The problem with selling to consumers or other small businesses is that they generally have small budgets. By targeting corporations – fishing for bigger fish – you have the chance to make more money because you are dealing with entities that have bigger budgets.
Not only, that, but by getting your foot in the door with a big business you can create a revenue stream that comes from co-branding with an impressive corporate partner. This can lead to even more corporate clients.
So, how do you catch the big fish? Here are the five steps to take:
1. Understand the corporate client: Before you make the decision to devote the time, effort, and money necessary to get a corporate client, you need to understand how big businesses operate.
It is key to understand that it is not called a “big business” for nothing. Everything about big businesses is big. Their needs are bigger, they have bigger budgets, more resources, more expertise, more people, more products, more services, more customers, and more vendors.
The good news is also the bad news: Because big businesses are big, they move slower. They are bureaucratic. And perhaps most importantly, finding the right person within the organization who has the need and budget to buy what you sell is not always easy.
A solution to this is to think of the company as the smaller units that make it up. Viewing the company as manageable, bite-size divisions (which it is) will make it easier to understand and will allow you to best figure out where to start.
2. Choose a business (or businesses) to target: There are a lot of big businesses out there that could use your products or services. How do you know which ones with whom to try and do business? You want two things from your potential big business partner:
- A company that needs what you have to sell
- A place where you will have a high likelihood of success
This is where the Internet and social media come into play. Do your homework.
3. Identify the right person: Trying to figure out who to pitch in a big company can be a challenge. Here are three ways to figure that out:
The “About Us” pages on corporate websites offer a wealth of information. Start there.
Data.com Connect is a directory of decision makers.
LinkedIn has a great advanced people search tool that not only analyzes data but lets you know how many connections away you are.
4. Get ready to pitch: If you want to sell to corporations, you must be prepared to answer this simple question: How does your business, product, or service help the big business? Note that the question is not, what do you have to sell that a big business will buy? It is a critical distinction.
Once you are ready, there are many ways to approach the identified decision maker. You can e-mail him or her. You can cold call. You can leave a clever voicemail. You can use your network to get an introduction. Or you can reach out to them on social media (a surprisingly effective method these days).
- 5. Pitch away: As you well know, there are some “magic phrases” that business people like and it would behoove you to use some of them:
- Less expensive
- Quicker, faster, better
- Higher quality
- Improved efficiency
- Increased customer loyalty
- Increased market share
- Less risk
Final tip: Your pitch needs to focus on helping them solve a problem or meeting an objective they want to achieve. That’s the key.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.
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