But corporate clients are not always easy to acquire. And if you don’t understand the reality of the corporate environment, you may sabotage even a hot lead.
Here are five important keys to working with the corporate buyer.
1. Managers are busy. This is true in economic downturns as well as during a boom. When business is slow, employees are inevitably laid off and the employees left behind have to pick up the slack. Busy people ignore unsolicited email and letters and will not return 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 and therefore be more productive.
2. Hot 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 to just introduce yourself will not get their attention. What do the people in your target market perceive to be the greatest problems or the highest goals they want to achieve? Ask questions of the people you want to do business with. Read trade magazines and special-interest publications to educate yourself on the key issues in your market. Then tell your potential prospects how you can help address these needs.
3. Every choice must be justified. When you sell to the owner of a small business or individual, your buyer is making purchasing decisions based on instinct, whim or gut feeling. But a 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 and the board to the shareholders. Each one wants to look good to the next link up the chain and dreads making a mistake. If you want your sale to go through, you need to provide your contact with evidence on why you and your solution are the best choice.
4. The 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?
Small businesses or individuals buy services often to improve their quality of life for themselves or 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 a brochure.
5. No 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 get approval if there isn’t any money in the budget. 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 a strong clue you are not talking to the decision-maker.