For many small business owners, selling to Corporate America is a game-changer. Every year, corporations in the United States spend more than $2 trillion buying services and products from other companies. About 60 percent of large companies in the United States are actively looking to increase their spending on goods and services purchased from small business owners. According to the Women’s Business Economic National Council, within two years of adding the first corporate client to their small business, women entrepreneurs experience an average increase in revenue of 266.4%. Presumably, it’s about the same for male entrepreneurs. I help my clients tap into this trillion-dollar market of global corporations.
…these same companies are responsible for generating about 60 percent of all the revenue produced by American companies…
But it’s not always easy to get your foot in the door with the big companies, even with their greater commitment to buy from small businesses. Here are my tips for firms to crack the code to this $8.73 trillion marketplace, which can oftentimes be daunting.
1. Create, implement and execute your plan:
There are approximately 18,000 companies in the country that have 500 or more employees on their payroll — and these same companies are responsible for generating about 60 percent of all the revenue produced by American companies. That makes for a very attractive, albeit a very large, target market.
For a small business owner, approaching a market of this size in random fashion would be expensive, time consuming and inefficient. So the first step toward building a full pipeline of corporate clients is to develop a clear marketing plan and then work the plan. Given today’s insanely busy work environment, it can take up to 12 touch points with a prospect before getting to a meaningful sales conversation. Map out the companies you’ll target and when and how those 12 interactions will occur. Your persistence will pay off in spades.
2. Don’t try to sell:
It sounds counterproductive, but not trying to sell a company on your services immediately can sometimes lead to a sale more quickly than a hard-nosed sales pitch. Here’s how it can work. You see a news report about a company in a situation that you are well equipped to help with. You call the head of the affected department, mention that you saw the news coverage and offer to e-mail over a resource that might be helpful to them. Without trying to schedule an appointment, talk about your services, or make a sale, you end the call.
On the other end of the phone is a bewildered albeit happy corporate decision-maker who now views you as a problem solver, not as a pushy salesperson. This puts dividends in the bank for the next time you reach out.
3. Think hyperlocally:
Renowned success coach Tony Robbins often points out that “proximity is power.” It’s a lot easier to get face-to-face with key decision makers located in the same city as you, where networking and relationship-building opportunities abound.
It’s also much more likely that you’ll know someone who knows someone at the companies you’re trying to access. Don’t underestimate the power of the warm introduction. Not only does this reduce the time it takes to reach your desired point of contact, but it also humanizes you, so you’re no longer a pestering “sales” person. Suddenly, you’re a friend.
Most importantly, a recent study showed that corporate decision makers put considerable weight on vendors’ proximity to their office location when making a buying decision.
If a door opens, walk through it…
4. Sell to the Spark:
The biggest obstacle to selling to corporate clients today is that people on the inside aren’t just busy, they’re frenzied. Small-business owners who are highly successful in landing corporate clients not only understand this, but they also do something very smart: They time their sales pitches to match up with what corporate decision makers are preoccupied with at that very moment in time. I call this concept “selling to the spark.”
Staying in the know is a lot easier than it may seem. By setting up Google alerts you can keep an eye on relevant press releases and news articles about your target clients. As a result, your pitches will be more targeted and timely, and you’re much more likely to get a response.
5. Break the rules:
There is no single right way to sell to corporate clients. There are certainly some very wrong ways, but you have to follow your gut instinct. If a door opens, walk through it. If you have a creative idea, give it a whirl. Some of the most lucrative corporate deals I know of have been closed through chance encounters, off-the-wall marketing tactics and, yes, sometimes even a bit of luck. The only thing that’s certain is that if you don’t put yourself in the game, you stand no chance of winning.
Harnessing her 15+ years of award-winning work with world-leading corporations, Angelique Rewers, ABC, APR, is the CEO of The Corporate Agent and founder of the INSIDE EDGE small business conference. She teaches solo business owners how to stop chasing cash-strapped clients and instead land lucrative corporate contracts. Having successfully navigated the corporate procurement process from both sides of the buying table, Angelique provides “insider” secrets and strategies that make this $2 trillion market more accessible to all.