services to corporations is an attractive proposition. The contracts
are larger than with small businesses and individuals, and often
longer-term. There's the possibility of repeat business worth many
billable hours at respectable rates.
But the best
clients are not always the easiest to get. If you don't grasp the
realities of the corporate environment, you may sabotage even a hot
lead. Here are five important keys to working with the corporate buyer.
are busy. This is just as true in economic downturns as during a
boom. When business is slow, unnecessary employees get laid off. The
people left behind have to pick up the slack.
Busy people ignore
unsolicited email and letters, and will not return your phone calls.
Even when you are in the final stages of closing a deal, your contact
may not return your calls for weeks. If you accept this as normal
behavior instead of obsessing about how you may have caused it, you
will sleep better at night and use your daylight hours more productively.
buttons open doors. If you want to capture the interest of a busy
person, you need to tell them exactly how you can help them. Calling
just to introduce yourself will not get their attention.
What do the people
in your target market perceive to be the greatest problems they face,
or the biggest goals they wish to achieve? Ask these questions of the
people you serve and the other businesspeople who serve them. Read
trade literature or special interest publications and educate
yourself on the key issues in your marketplace. Then tell your
prospects in every communication how you can help address these needs.
choice must be justified. When you sell to the owner of a small
business or to an individual for his or her own use, your buyer is
free to make purchasing decisions based on instinct, whim, or gut
feeling. But every corporate sale must be justified to someone else
in the organization. A supervisor must justify choices to a
manager, the manager to an executive, the executive to the CEO, the
CEO to the board, the board to the shareholders. Each one of these
people wants to look good to the next link up the chain, and dreads
making a public mistake. If you want your sale to go through, you
need to provide your contact with EVIDENCE why you and your solution
are the best choice.
bottom line rules. When you provide your evidence, it had better
include dollars and cents. If you are more expensive than your
competition, what added value will you provide? If hiring you will
cost more than solving the company's problem in some other way, what
tangible benefits will they receive that make the added expense
worthwhile? Individuals and small businesses buy services in
the category of nice-to-have, often to improve their quality of life
or that of their employees. Corporations, especially in lean times,
don't. You must sell them something they actually NEED and prove how
it will enhance their bottom line. Real-life examples of results at
other companies can speak volumes. Illustrations with charts and
graphs are more convincing than any brochure.
budget; no project. Even when the company needs what you have and
thinks you're the best one for the job, the deal won't go through if
there's no money in the budget. You can ask your contact to try for a
budget variance, but no budget usually means your project will be
deferred until the next fiscal year.
Always ask if the
client has a budget at the first meeting. Don't necessarily
expect them to tell you how much it is- price negotiations will come
later. But if your contact can't answer budget questions, it's also a
strong clue you are not talking to the decision-maker.
See you in the
C.J. Hayden, MCC
2002, C.J. Hayden. All rights reserved.