Sales Process

Whale Hunting Practice #17: Cultivate the Polar Bear

By November 16, 2009December 29th, 2015No Comments
In The Whale Hunters parlance, the Polar Bear is the one buyer with the authority to say “Yes” to a deal.  All of the caribou (technical buyers) can influence the ultimate decision, but they are relegated to saying NO or urging the Polar Bear to say Yes.

Sometimes the Polar Bear does not appear at the Buyers’ Table.  One client related an instance in which they were working with a large prospect to implement a blogging strategy.  The deal had gone on for months, and the Marketing VP finally signed off.  But when the proposed contract went to Legal, the Polar Bear [head of legal!] said “No way are we starting a blog!  Too much liability!”

The CEO or CFO may be the Polar Bear.  If you are working with someone at the VP level, that person will most likely present himself or herself as the Polar Bear.  But very often there is a more formal, invisible vetting process that will take place once your VP makes a decision.  That’s what you’ve got to find out ahead of time.

So in a complex sales process with a whale, here are some questions you need to ask–always behaving as if your champion is the final decision-maker, but understanding that usually it is more complicated than that:

  • who will be impacted by your decision?
  • will you introduce us to them, bring them to the table?
  • who are the people upline to whom you will present your decision/recommendations?
  • how can we help you present our solution internally?  What materials, formats, or meetings do you need?
  • what are some reasons that this project may stall even if you are prepared to move forward?
  • how can we help you mitigate those potential pitfalls?

If you are lucky enough to meet the polar bear in person, be sure to put your Founder/Owner/CEO at the table.  An important reason that big companies sometimes choose to hire small companies is that they know they will have control and attention.  Reinforce that selling point at every opportunity.

Small companies and those small companies with designations as women-owned or minority-owned or disadvantaged businesses  have huge opportunities to sell big deals to big companies that dwarf them.  To gain that business, you need to become very savvy about locating the real decision-maker–the polar bear.

Are you hungry to grow your business fast?  Do you have a sales process strategy designed to help you identify the polar bear every time?  Do you have a polar bear story to share with our readers?

I would love to hear from you about how your small/midsize company is landing large accounts and what is your experience with the polar bear.