Sales Training Tips: Bagging the Big Customers

The latest in our sales tips series, we discuss the pros and cons of closing a sales deal with a large customer, and the sales techniques you can use to track down and bag these huge business accounts.

Are you setting your sights on Big Game for your business startup?
If so, you’ll avoid time-consuming sales work, follow-up and customer
service for pipsqueak accounts. But just as big companies differ from
small ones, and wealthy buyers aren’t the same as penny pinchers, big
customers differ from little ones. To bag them — and keep them — you’ll
need some sales training in special strategies and tactics .

Millions of startup entrepreneurs dream about winning the blockbuster
deal that will cement their financial future. But only a few know how
to attract the attention of the most lucrative accounts.

If you’ve already hit a brick wall, it could be that you’re simply not
thinking big enough or targeting the right big customers. Maybe you’re
making common mistakes that often quash small business / big buyer
relationships before they ever have a chance to soar.

Negotiating
your way through a big buyer’s bureaucracy can be tricky. Often there
are many layers of individuals involved, and special requirements to
meet – some obvious, some hidden. And over time, the people can change,
leaving you in a pickle.

Whether you’re just starting a
business or well along the way, specifically targeting big customers is
a worthy goal for your business, and worth the time to do it right. A
single giant sale can inject much-needed cash into a fledgling venture,
and along with it the ability to expand and nurture your dream in ways
you never thought possible.

Steve Kaplan, founder of The
Difference Maker Inc., has “been-there/done-that.” He turned a
home-based operation into a $250 million business in 10 years by
targeting what he calls “elephants,” and has worked with businesses
from runaway winners to outright dogs. Kaplan, who is author of Bag the Elephant: How to Win & Keep Big Customers , pinpoints four sales training tips you must know to successfully sell to big customers:

Sales training techniques for successfully selling to big customers

  • Who does what:
    Your contact is never the only one who decides whether or not you get
    the business. Learn who influences, who buys and who kills deals. Find
    out who else is involved, and what each of them needs and expects from
    your startup business.
  • How to make their list:
    Many big buyers only do business with vendors and service providers who
    are on their preferred list. Your job is to get your name at the top of
    that list in as many categories as possible. “If your potential
    customer has an approved vendor program or something comparable,
    embrace it as a way to separate yourself from the competition,” says
    Kaplan.
  • The company’s unique quirks, lingo and culture:
    Every big business has its own idiosyncrasies and language, including
    acronyms, clichés and nicknames. Learn them all. Keep your eyes and
    ears open. Study their website and marketing materials. Being able to
    “talk the talk” is one thing that separates insiders from outsiders.
  • The boundaries of their budget season:
    Big companies develop annual budgets that have five phases during which
    they’ll make their buying decisions: setting objectives, strategy,
    tactics, implementation and review. When discussing your product or
    service, ask when the company budgets and when it makes decisions.
    Learn details of the process so you’ll know when to approach. Don’t be
    locked out simply because you were late.

As
you pursue your big game, lavish them with attention. Return calls and
answer questions quickly. Address problems immediately. Be vigilant
throughout the entire process, including presentations, quotes, client
requests, delivery and follow-up, says Kaplan. “Never give your
prospect a reason to doubt you or look elsewhere, even for a moment.”

If you land a big customer, and they like what you’re doing, they might
offer opportunities that seem removed from your core business. Don’t
pass these up. As challenging as they might seem, consider them a
chance to grow your business. Never put limits on what can and can’t be
done.

Above all, don’t get greedy. Position yourself as
a trusted partner in a long-term relationship and you will be well
rewarded. But try to break the bank on the first score and you’ll end
up paying the price.

Our Bottom Line

Even
if you haven’t already, you might want to consider raising your sights
and targeting the really big customers for your product or service,
such as big corporations or government entities. But before you move on
it, a little sales training is in order – you need to hone your big
game hunting skills. The pursuit of big customers requires a different
selling strategy on your end, and a firm commitment to being the
absolute best at what you do.

© 2005 BizBest Media Corp.

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