The worst thing about large accounts is that buyers tend to pigeonhole you in the niche where you currently fit.
Sometimes, selling new business to your existing large accounts is more difficult than landing a new account. Here’s an example: We had a client that provided engineering validation services to the manufacturing division a large corporation. After several years of providing that service successfully, our client had introduced a totally new service–technical writing. Not only manufacturing but also marketing, R&D, training, and customer service could have used these new services provided by a company that the parent company trusts based on past performance. But the current end-users had no contacts in the other divisions, and the manufacturing division had pegged our client for engineering validation, not technical writing. Ultimately, our client found that it was easier to go elsewhere for the new business.
For another example, we had a client that provided a unique method of delivering discount coupons for local restaurants and other retail establishments to employees at their workplace. They were very successful in serving local and regional franchises of national chain restaurants and groceries. There was often a promise that if there service passed “a test” they would be considered for a national application. However, the national marketing buyers never do business with the companies they consider to be “local” suppliers.
So, sometimes it if best to move on to another customer. But there are ways to influence your current large clients if you are strategic about it:
- Begin to build relationships outside of your current work area when the contract is new. These will take much time to develop.
- Engage your entire team–every area that touches the whale–in planning for new business.
- Turn “common knowledge”–what each person knows about the customer–into “shared knowledge” — what everyone knows
- Separate fact from opinion and gossip about the customer and the divisions of its business
- create a grid of all the potential buyers of your products/services (divisions, locations, departments) and your offerings. Determine the most likely next sale for your company.
- strategize that sale as you would any new business, leveraging existing relationships
New business with key accounts is always the goal of whale hunting. How is that working for you?