The trickiest part of whale hunting for small and midsize companies is to capture your sale: deliver your products and services as promised once you’ve made the sale. Big contracts with big customers are not business as usual for many companies. Smaller companies are often long on energy and enthusiasm but short on operational processes, policies, and rules. And big customers have higher expectations than many of your smaller customers have.
So, how do you bring a new whale on board smoothly?
- Collaborate. You need a seamless handoff from the sales and contract negotiation team to the delivery team(s). The more complex the sale, the more people need to be involved in the on-boarding process. Depending on your size, it’s an individual, a team leader, or an area head that needs to be represented on the intake team.
- Document. If you don’t have a detailed intake process, create one as you are serving this new whale. Assign someone to assist the project manager by capturing all the details of what your teams are doing, what the whale team is asking for, and how things are moving forward. Document any pitfalls or unforeseen problems.
- Communicate. Share progress on at least a weekly basis; daily if necessary in the earliest stages. Communicate internally with your team and externally with the whale’s team. Implement a formal process of communication and document all of your interactions.
- Escalate. If anyone or any team runs into problems, these need to be brought to the attention of higher management immediately. Leaders need to cultivate a culture in which people are encouraged to report problems rather than fearful of being criticized or worse. If a serious problem occurs, such as a serious lapse in your ability to deliver at the next step, your CEO should address it promptly and honestly with the whale while the team sets about to rectify.
- Debrief. Regularly discuss your progress with an eye to improving for the next time. Note problems and successes. Pay attention to deficiencies on the whale team as well as problems and opportunities on your own side. If the whale team is hard to pin down, for example, that may indicate a typical problem that you will encounter for which you need to devise more effective tactics. Include everyone who touches the whale in the debrief sessions.
When you master your intake process for new large accounts, your whales will be happy and give you repeat business, your team will gain confidence and poise, and your company will grow.