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As a small business, one important opportunity you’re probably considering is expanding and growing by including enterprise corporations in your sales portfolio. In addition to such contracts being more lucrative, pursuing relationships with larger companies means that you:
- Make new, highly-useful contacts and networking opportunities
- Gather recommendations and testimonials from those with a lot of influence within the industry you’re targeting
- Are able to develop in-depth case studies for your marketing efforts
- Improve your credibility and confidence, both in your own eyes and the eyes of those in your industry
However, cultivating such relationships and making the necessary sales to enterprises, especially when you’re a small fish in a big pond, can be difficult — in fact, there are many who prefer to go after multiple smaller opportunities that they’re likely to close instead of spending major effort courting a large corporation. However, such is not an impossible proposition, and this article will cover ways in which you can make improve your chances of closing the deal and brightening the future for your business.
Take Advantage of Technology
One of the first things you need to do is to get your own shop in order so that you can easily handle and manage the work that’s required to do business with an enterprise corporation.
When working on a sales and marketing campaign aimed at a corporation, there are likely to be a lot of things you need to do, people you need to speak with, and deliverables (such as proposals, presentations, cost-benefit analyses, and other in-depth documentation) you need to create and deliver. All of these moving parts can get lost, so take advantage of the technology available to help you manage these things and make sure that nothing gets lost or overlooked — the last thing you want is to present the image of a small entity that can’t get their act together, something that hardly inspires confidence in a client.
Today’s programs are hardly yesterday’s customer relationship managers (CRMs); these suites are fully-integrated platforms that allow you to handle multiple phases of your marketing campaigns in one place, making it easier for you to do more in less time. You’ll also get the data you need to see what is working and what isn’t — big data isn’t just for big companies. Small businesses like yourself can certainly take advantage of in-depth analytics and leverage this information to improve your efforts.
Sweat the Small Details
Take a look at the way you’re presenting your company, and make sure all of your ducks are in a row:
- Have your financial situation in order: when you’re working with big companies, expect them to scrutinize your financial situation to assess whether working with you is a risk or not
- Fill out your business cards: no, your name, company name, and an email address aren’t enough. Include your physical address, and list any professional licenses or certifications you might have
- Develop your company’s web presence: while you don’t have to have the best website on the internet, you should have one. If you can, get it professionally designed so that it looks as good as possible
- Get a company email address: Email addresses from free providers, such as Gmail, aren’t appropriate. The internet has changed the marketplace, and it’s important for you to have a developed web presence to built your company’s legitimacy. One aspect of this presence is having a professional email address.
When working with a corporation, you’ll likely to be speaking to many different people, each of whom might be located on a different portion of the corporate hierarchy. You already know that decision making is made by multiple people, not a single person, and it’s entirely possible that you’ll have to sway each person that has a say in the decision to buy or not. What makes this challenging is that the concerns of one person might not be the concern of somebody else. While you can’t control who makes up your audience, there are two things that you can do to make this process easier for you:
- Know your company, inside and out. This sounds trite, but it’s important that you can speak knowledgeably about your company to people at all levels of the corporate hierarchy. Upper-level management is likely to care most about their bottom line, so you’ll need to know the financial impact of working with you. End-users (if they’re given a say), are likely to care about usability and feature set, so you’ll need to know how your product will fit into their day-to-day lives and how it will benefit them. Regardless of who you’re talking to, remember that you’ll need to be able to go in depth. When you’re thinking through your business and making claims, keep asking the question, “Why?” to distill down the reasons why you can do what you claim.
- Find a champion for your product within the corporation. While the company will present to you some of the stumbling blocks it sees preventing its adoption of your product, it will not present to you every issue it sees. Ideally, this champion is capable of seeing the big picture, so to speak, of how you can add value to their business. Not only is this person capable of providing positive reinforcement to their coworkers, but they’re also the person who will handle the supporting materials (which you’ve made sure they have!) capable of providing the answers to the questions that others ask.
Craft the Appropriate Social Media Presence
Social media is important when you’re advertising to other small businesses and individual consumers, but it is no less important when you’re targeting large corporations. Not only is social media highly influential in the decision-making process, but it is also helpful for you to identify the decision-makers you need to work with during the sales cycle.
However, not all social media is equal, so you’ll need to reconsider both the platforms you’re using and the content you’re delivering:
- When you’re conducting business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, you’re likely creating easily-sharable content that’s relatively informal in tone on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
- With business-to-business (B2B) marketing, especially those toward larger entities, you’re crafting more professional content, such as white papers, webinars, one-pages, infographics, and case studies accessible via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn is the most important platform for such campaigns, but Twitter and Facebook are still vital.
You should also remember that the metrics used to analyze the rates of success of your social media marketing differs from B2B and B2C efforts. With B2C efforts, you’re aiming for community engagement and community awareness, with virality the gold standard marker for success. With B2B efforts, however, your goal is lead generation, which, unfortunately, is a less easily measurable metric.
Be Creative with Your Networking
Getting your foot in the door is important, but don’t discount any of your leads just because they don’t appear to be the “conventional” ways by which you attract the attention of a large corporation.
For example, if your business sells a lunch-based service, you might try getting in touch with your connection who is affiliated with the business’ culture committee (because this isn’t a job description, you’ll have to ask around to identify the responsible parties). The culture committee, while not typically associated with employees’ lunchtime meal decisions, might still be interested in cultivating a lunchtime speaker series that offers participants lunch.
By seeking unconventional avenues into the corporation, you’ll be reaching out to someone who doesn’t already see numerous sales pitches and might be overwhelmed by the proposals to the point where “no” is the automatic answer.
Work from the Bottom Up
Rather than starting with a major company as a whole, break the company down into smaller entities. Then, pitch to those smaller entities. By doing this, you’re tackling a smaller project, and it is easier for you to develop your overall sales package.
Then, if you are successful, you can easily expand your relationship to other entities and, eventually, the company as a whole.
When you embark on this endeavor, you’ll have the bonus of being a proven partner with people at the company who are willing to vouch for you, and you’ll be able to determine the assorted decision makers who are working throughout the enterprise. You’ll also have inside access to the company, aiding you as you do your preliminary research on the business, its industry, and its marketplace.
Always remember that there are decision makers at every level of the corporate hierarchy and their job functions, both formal and informal, might make that person a good lead for you. Because of this, we emphasize again our advice above, which is to know your business so well that you can see how you add value at all levels — the lunchtime speaker series, for example, might bring publicity to the company based on the speakers that come by and chat with employees.
Don’t Sell to a Corporation; Help the Corporation
The major corporations you’re interested in have probably heard your sales pitch thousands of times. While the details might vary, the overall tone and delivery is nothing new. As such, using the sales approach probably won’t be as successful as trying to help the corporation.
If you’ve done your homework, you’ll probably have identified some of the corporation’s pain points. Pick the one you want to help with, and craft what’s called a “value proposition pitch” (the modern day equivalent to an elevator pitch) that tells the company that you know they have a problem and how you can help them with that problem.
Not only is going the helpfulness route (rather than a sales route) going to get you more attention than a hard sell, you’ll also be able to craft a pitch that is specific, targeted, and actionable. You’ll also be able to use this offer of assistance in your follow-ups and as leverage when you make future contacts with the company.
Remember: people appreciate assistance, but people do not appreciate being “sold to”.
As a small business, selling to a major corporation can seem challenging. However, it is not an impossible task, and if you want to grow your company (especially into the million-dollar sales range and beyond), these contracts are indispensable. There are certainly things you can do to improve your chances of landing your contract, and hopefully, you’ll feel more equipped to tackle these tasks after reading this article.
- Creative Market has put out How to Write a Design Proposal: The Ultimate Guide
- Entrepreneur’s How to Give a Killer Presentation (Infographic)
- If your public-speaking skills are a bit rusty, review the 3 Secrets to Mastering the Art of Public Speaking
- Inc. Magazine’s How to Write a Winning Proposal
- If you’re new to the art of lead generation, check out this beginner’s guide by Pronto Marketing.
- When you’ve got the hang of things, see this in-depth guide by Marketo
- Sales Hacker’s How to Write the Perfect Sales Email
- WordStream’s How to Write a Convincing Case Study in 7 Steps
- If the government is one of the entities to which you’re pitching, see FindRFP for listings of US and Canadian governmental calls for project proposals, or see Contracts Finder if you’re interested in working with the UK government and its agencies.