Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith, @bweaversmith.
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith is founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters®. She is author of Whale Hunting with Global Accounts: Four Critical Sales Strategies to Win Global Customers and co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company, based on the collaborative culture of the Inuit people who engaged their entire village to hunt whales. Barbara teaches companies to rapidly increase their revenue through bigger sales to bigger customers. She supports her clients’ success with a steady stream of new content for consulting, speaking, and online training. For more information visit: www.thewhalehunters.com/
Smallbizlady: HOW DO YOU HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE?WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT LANDING BIG DEALS, YOU CALL IT ‘WHALE HUNTING’, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: It’s all based on how the Inuit people up in Alaska hunted whales centuries ago. They developed skill, knowledge, cooperation, and clearly defined roles. They spent months in preparation and practice. Everyone in the village took part. It’s a priceless analogy for how a small group can accomplish a huge undertaking and reduce their risk while they’re at it
Smallbizlady: SO YOUR BIG CUSTOMERS ARE WHALES TO BE HUNTED?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: The Inuit story is richer than that. After they harvested a whale, they returned its head to the sea. They believed it would be reborn the next spring. It was a sacred ritual; a gift from their gods. So I consider your customer a gift to you who is reborn thanks to your excellent service. That’s why I think we can learn ancient wisdom from the Inuit culture!
Smallbizlady: WHY SHOULD A SMALL BIZ OWNER EVEN BE THINKING ABOUT BIGGER DEALS?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: To get bigger deals, you need to go after bigger customers. Learning to satisfy bigger, more experienced customers will make your company better, more efficient and more expert. Finding bigger customers will also make you grow geographically. And doing bigger deals lowers your cost of sale; it isn’t ten times more expensive to sell a ten-times bigger deal.
Smallbizlady: HOW WOULD I GET STARTED?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: You need to implement a process, basically three major parts. I call it Scout, Hunt, Harvest. Scouting is all about knowing your target market and the characteristics of what would be an ideal customer for you. Hunting is all about how to manage a sale. Harvest is how you will deliver more than promised, building a relationship for future business with that whale.
Smallbizlady: HOW AM I GOING TO KNOW AN IDEAL CUSTOMER?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: Decide your most important criteria, such as industry, size, location, finances, reputation, or others. Then use a business database to find companies that match. Find lots of information about those companies—just 10 or so of them for starters. Then start to find social media introductions to some of the key people you would want to meet.
Smallbizlady: IS ALL OF THAT RESEARCH REALLY IMPORTANT?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: You bet! It’s is the most important way you can begin to differentiate your company from your competitors. You need to start learning everything you can about this corporation—the whole size and scope of it. All of its locations, subsidiaries, production sites, where its work happens. What is its strategic plan?
Smallbizlady: THEN WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: You will use what you know to have really smart and informed conversations with your new prospect, to ask good questions. In your “Hunt” phase, you don’t want to do a product dump in your early meetings—or really in any meetings. You need to help them develop a vision of the outcomes that you can help them achieve.
Smallbizlady: COULD YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE FROM A COMPANY WE WOULD KNOW?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: Everybody knows Verizon, right? They have a new gadget “Hum” that you buy and stick in your phone. It allows you to connect to emergency service. You can also track where your teenagers are driving and how fast. That’s the start of a huge investment Verizon’s making in smart cars and highways. It will markedly change their needs. This will effect training, logistics, marketing, advertising, and countless other services and products in the future.
Smallbizlady: SO YOU MEAN WE WOULD HAVE TO KNOW THAT EARLY, RIGHT?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: Yes, to hunt Verizon you’d have to know their strategic plans & industry analysis, long before it gets to the market. And believe me, your competitors mostly do not know these things! And being small has nothing to do with how informed you can be and how smart you can become. You can learn about any market or industry or company if you create that culture of preparation in your business.
Smallbizlady: CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT HUNTING, BEYOND THAT EARLY KNOWLEDGE?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: Sure. A key factor in a large account sale is how many people will be influencing the decision. I call it the Buyers’ Table. A big part of your process is learning to locate and meet with all necessary people. You essentially have to guide the process for them. It is too hard and too complex for them to manage all on their own.
Smallbizlady: ISN’T IT BETTER TO GET A LITTLE DEAL FIRST AND THEN GO AFTER MORE?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: Often if you go in the little door you stay in the small room. It’s OK to start with one division, then move to another. But don’t take a bad deal, or heavily discount your deal just to get it, or do work that you typically don’t do. You’ll get pegged as a little guy and you’ll never get beyond that stereotype. Start at the level that is right for you; the place where you can make the most impact for the customer.
Smallbizlady: YOU TALK ABOUT HUNTING WHALES IN THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE—CAN SMALL BIZ REALLY GO GLOBAL?
Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith: Absolutely! Many small businesses I know are being drawn offshore by their big customers every day. While you are working on landing bigger clients, don’t try to fence them into your zip code! Understand their global presence and think about them globally from the start. There are good ways to start with the end in mind that will help you grow naturally in that direction.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
For more tips on how to start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.