Getting a Big Client
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Getting a Big Client

Q: I have a meeting with a corporate manager soon and I will be pitching my services to them. Selling to big business is new to me. Do you have any suggestions? — Kelly

A: There is no doubt that big business needs small business. Not only do they sell to us, but they also buy a lot of goods and services from us. But big business is much different than small business. If you are going to try and crack the corporate market, I think you need to keep these tips in mind:

1. You have to solve a problem: Your first step (after identifying your target of course) is to show the company in question generally, and the manager to whom you are pitching specifically, that you have a service they need and that by buying from you, you will be solving a problem they have.

So before ever even making that first phone call, educate yourself about the company. Find their pain points and be ready to explain how you can alleviate them.

2. Know with whom you are dealing:  Corporate managers are busy people who have to justify the decisions they make to higher-ups. You will need a dynamic presentation and need to follow up, and then follow up some more. Show them that you are the best choice for this expenditure such that they can explain it to their manager (and their manager's manager.)

A proven track record helps, as do testimonials from other companies with whom you have worked (even if they are not Fortune 500 companies.)

3. Appreciate budgets: Every department and every manager has a budget. When they buy from you it means they will not be spending their money elsewhere, so you really need to be able to show them that this expenditure is the best use of their limited budgetary dollars.

4. Have a dynamite proposal and presentation: A good business proposal explains your idea, simply and logically. It will be easy to read and understand. It will explain to the reader, who may know nothing about your idea, what the proposition is and how it will work. It will also avoid jargon and hyperbole.

More importantly, a good business proposal is a sales tool that shows the reader how it is in his or her self-interest to agree to what you are proposing. The proposal must therefore be persuasive, well-written, and compelling. Don't over-hype, but don't under-sell either. And remember what I said about their time; they're busy.

So keep your proposal sharp and to the point. For you to be taken as a professional your proposal must be professional.

5. Check out their supplier diversity programs: Many corporations have what are known as "Supplier Diversity Programs." These are efforts to increase their purchasing of goods and services by selected small businesses, typically those owned by veterans, women, the disabled, and minorities.

For instance, AT&T states that the:

"AT&T Supplier Diversity Programs are designed to promote, increase and improve the quality of the overall participation of small, minority, women and disabled veteran business enterprises (M/WBE and DVBEs) in our supply chain. Our goal is to procure 21.5% of our products and services from M/WBE and DVBEs.. .. Together, we look for opportunities to work with diversity suppliers in all aspects of our business — from advertising to central office engineering, computers, outside plant construction and network provisioning."

Many corporations have offices dedicated specifically to helping small businesses enter their diversity programs, so check them out.

Today's tip: A book you might want to read is Bag the Elephant: How to Win & Keep BIG Customers, by Steve Kaplan.

© 2010 Steven D. Strauss,