I recently had a story shared with me by a mentor of mine on his experience as a business-to-business salesman. He was a corporate type that sold telephone systems and services to major retailers. The telecommunications industry has always been a rapidly moving and competitive industry, especially since deregulation came along. Many of his transactions were million dollar deals, but what I learned the most from him was that the basics of selling are the same whether you are trying to close a large or small contract. Here are what he thought were the major factors in how a small business can sell to corporate America.
- Build a foundation of trust with the client. The key decision maker needs to always feel that you have their company’s best interest (and the decider’s) at heart. Never put the buyer in the position of having to defend why he’s buying your product or service.
- Create a relationship with your prospect. If your business is local, face-to-face contact is ideal to build relationships with potential customers. Participate in local business groups, chambers of commerce or social organizations. Take plenty of business cards and ask for them from your potential customers at every opportunity. If your customers are unique and widely dispersed, use industry publications, your website, and leverage social media to get attention.
- Understand your client’s time-frame. One of the most important things in a successful business is to understand the sales cycles. In other words, how long will it typically take you a close a customer? At the top of your to-to list is to understand your target client’s time-frame. When will they be ready to buy – today, next week, or next year?
- Cultivate the client and the client’s circle. The bigger the deal, generally the more time it will take to close. The lesson here is that trust takes time. Most importantly, make sure that you are talking to the person that can say actually say yes to the deal. Often, the real decision maker is surrounded by folks who can only say no or recommend your firm.
- Always bring value to the table. There is nothing like a pleasantly surprised customer because you gave them more than they expected. Always over deliver on your basic offer. Little extras can go a long way to build loyalty with a client.
- Close the deal “Press hard, three copies” was the moment of closing the deal and a culmination of all the trust you built. Now you need to be sure to maintain and sustain that client in the years ahead through ongoing communication.
Trust is the ultimate goal of a creating a long-term customer relationship. We don’t have to look far to find companies that have built empires on trusting relationships with customers. The loss of this trust may make a company change to a competitor, so investing in your customer to sustain that trust is investing in your long-term revenue stream.
“Conference Room” courtesy of adamr / www.freedigitalphotos.net
Do you have any suggestions for selling to corporate America?