You feel the earth move, under your feet . . . and it’s not love. It’s a whole new world of selling to whales–those big companies, large accounts that are 10 or 20 times your average.
Big company behavior changes radically when times get tough. Especially now, because many big companies have never experienced a time as economically challenging as this time seems to be.
If you are responsible for sales and business development opportunities, you’re clearly confronting some new territory. Here are five new sales realities and some thoughts on how to cope with them:
- Buyers’ table in flux. Whales are reorganizing, downsizing, and otherwise disrupting their staff. Your contact today–even your entire buying team–may be gone or reassigned tomorrow. What to do? Use your social media outlets to keep in touch with the former players. Exercise some patience but offer to be of help to the replacement team. Give your new prospect representative some tangible value–information, assessment, recap, presentation–that will help solve their immediate problems and position you as a resource.
- Business model has changed. Some whales are focused on cost-cutting; others are focused on increasing revenue. Still others are investing to grow market share while their competitors are laying low. What to do? Learn your prospect’s strategy and align with it. Your value proposition needs to match up perfectly with their methods of handling the recession.
- Outsourced services brought in-house. From technology to marketing to recruitment to customer support, services that the whale used to purchase from outside vendors are being reassigned to internal employees or teams. Perhaps your service is one of those. What to do? Chances are those newly responsible for this service or program are only marginally prepared to handle it. View this as an opportunity to provide advice, guidance, leadership, or training. Do it for free, to capitalize on the opportunity to learn their business, develop new tools and protocols that can be re-sold, and build a relationship for the future.
- More complex approval process. Even a whale that wants to buy your product or service may have a more complicated way of getting it done. With people missing and functions reassigned, your sponsor may struggle with internal chain of command issues. What to do? Be patient. Provide brief, powerful executive summaries in document or powerpoint form that your champion can take upline. Revise your offering to match the new mantra of the executive team–[see #2 above].
- Budget freeze. It’s hard for whales to cut expenses strategically; they are much more likely to defer all spending for one or two quarters, cut all budgets by 15%, or invoke a hiring freeze across the board. Suppliers get caught in these unilateral decisions. What to do? If you had a deal that has been, let’s say, “unfunded,” your best response is to be flexible, guarantee your proposal and rates for an additional 90 days, and find ways to stick around. Help where you can and position your company for the comback. Budgets will thaw if the company is viable.
I would love to hear your comments about what’s changing. How about it?