Top 5 Tips for Selling Your Products to Large Corporations
I recently did a teleconference call for Dr. Audri Lanford's
inner circle members on the subject of developing new products
and services to sell or license to large corporations. After the
call, Audri noticed a very interesting pattern of feedback. A lot
of people reported that they enjoyed the call and got immediate
benefit for their businesses. But the topic they were most
interested in wasn't developing new products to sell to large
corporations - but how they could sell the products they already
have to large corporations.
A quick poll of my subscribers turned up similar results. Many of
you don't give a hoot about developing new products. You already
have great products or services and what you really want is the
ability to land the "holy grail" of customers, large corporations
that represent sizable contracts.
As you may know, when my partners and I quickly built and sold
our software company for $6.2 million, one of the core strategies
we used was to sell our software only to large corporations.
Starting from scratch, in an industry we had no experience in, we
quickly booked appointments with senior executives at IBM,
Deloitte Consulting, Ford, Amgen, Anheiser-Busch, the United
States Air Force, Squibb Pharmaceuticals and many others. The
problem is, most small and medium-sized businesses don't have a
clue about how to get their products in front of large
corporations. They've tried and tried, but nearly always get shot
down by a gate keeper who tells them,
"I'm sorry, Mr. Bigaccount isn't interested. But thank you for thinking of us."
In this issue, I'm going to show you how to put an end to that
kind of frustration with five top tips for selling your products
to large corporations.
Top Tip #1:
Use the proper approach sequence
One of the primary reasons small and medium sized businesses fail
to make any headway with large corporations is they use the wrong
approach sequence. The majority of the time, they start with a
phone call. This simply won't work. The gate keeper's job
(typically the executive assistant to the President, CEO, COO, or
Senior Vice President) is to screen out calls that may waste
their boss' time. And since you are unknown, you're immediately
deemed as unworthy. Sorry, but that's a fact of business life.
The only way to successfully do an "end-around" and eliminate
resistance from the gate keeper is to use a Letter-Call-Follow Up
sequence of contacts. Here's how this works. Start by sending a
brief letter addressed directly to the high level executive.
Explain the value of your product or service to the large
corporation and back it up with sales records, marketing
research, and a list of your satisfied customers. If you don't
have all of these, use as many as you have.
The critical factor here is you must demonstrate a true value to
the large corporation you want to do business with. High level
executives are charged with keeping the company profitable and
increasing the value of the company's stock to its shareholders.
They are more than happy to hear about products and services that
will legitimately help them achieve these goals.
End your letter by telling the executive you will call them on a
specific date to discuss this further. Then make sure you call on
that date. If you don't, you're dead in the water. As the old
saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression". If you don't follow up exactly when you promised to,
most high level executives will write you off as someone who is
incapable of carrying through.
When you call, one of three things will happen. (1) The executive
will have read your letter and take your call. (2) The executive
will have read your letter and has assigned someone to review
your offer. You'll be transferred to that person. (3) The
executive has not read your letter, but you'll get a promise that
it will be read by a certain date. In this case, establish
another date to call back.
Most importantly, because of your lead letter, the high level
executive has instructed the gate keeper to put your call
through. You avoid being given the run around and you'll get an
opportunity to make a pitch for an in-person appointment.
Top Tip #2:
Leverage the power of professional alliances
Another technique that was extremely successful for us was to
establish sales alliances with companies that were already doing
business with the major corporations we had targeted as ideal
clients. The greatest difficulty for a smaller business to
overcome when attempting to do business with a major corporation
is credibility. So we decided not to even try to do this on our
Instead, we found other vendors that already had existing
contracts with major corporations to provide complementary but
non-competing products or services. We offered them a 50/50 split
of profits - far more than the typical 10% sales commission most
companies offer. This lucrative commission structure got these
key vendors to eagerly listen to our proposal, and a portion of
them to agree to do business together. With one company, I was 10
minutes into my 30-minute sales presentation when they said,
"Great, how do we get started?" Within one week, they were
presenting our software to Ford Motor Company and Amgen, a major
Top Tip #3:
Establish alliances with industry experts
This tip is incredibly easy to use, but I'm constantly amazed by
the fact that almost no one takes advantage of it. In every
industry, there are recognized experts. Experts who are well
known for being ahead of the curve on issues having to do with
We created alliances with these experts and used these alliances
to our benefit in two ways. First, we added these experts to our
board of advisers and displayed this information on our web site
and in our printed literature. The name recognition alone
contributed strongly to establishing our credibility with large
corporations that surely hadn't heard of us.
Second, we gained many corporate contacts from these advisors.
Once an advisor has had a bit of time to become comfortable with
you, they will offer to make introductions to companies they've
consulted with. One of our advisors even offered to host a lunch
and presentation to executives from 10-15 large corporations,
most of them Fortune 500s. You can bet we jumped on this right
How do you get these industry experts to join your board of
advisers? It couldn't be easier. Simply provide them with a demo
or sample of your product, ask them to join your advisory board,
promise to only take an hour or two of their time annually, and
offer some sort of compensation. We offered stock options. This
cost neither us nor the expert anything up front, but became
valuable to our advisory board members upon the sale of our
Top Tip #4:
Hire to win
Our software provided advance testing capabilities for the online
training industry. One of the key hires we made was a high-level
executive from the leading company in our industry to be our Vice
President of Business Development. Her recognition in the
industry and her deep list of company contacts immediately
positioned us in the minds of prospective customers as a company
that should be taken seriously.
Before hiring her, when one of our sales people called a
prospect, there was a 50/50 chance their call would be taken. But
when our new VP of Business Development called a prospect, it was
almost guaranteed that her call would be taken every time.
We did the same with consultants. Whenever we needed outside
expertise to shore up certain areas, we tried to always hire
consultants who had a large number of important contacts within
As a result of "hiring to win", we were able to make sales
presentations to at least a dozen Fortune 500 companies we never
would have gotten access to without this method.
Top Tip #5:
Using professional services to win
Here's another technique I love because it's so easy to use. And
here again, when consulting with my clients, I'm amazed to find
that almost nobody uses this powerful technique.
Do you use a lawyer in your business? A banker? A web designer, a
printer, a delivery service, or a forms broker? Or any other type
of professional service pertinent to your business?
If so, you should only do business with service professionals who
already service large corporations in your industry and who will
introduce you to the high level executives charged with keeping
those corporations profitable.
We received nearly 20 direct introductions to senior executives
at Fortune 500 companies just from our law firm. How did we do
this? By first seeking out a law firm that specialized in our
industry or related industries and by simply asking them to make
the introductions. They were happy to help establish a mutually
beneficial relationship for all concerned.
The firm that designed our web site personally introduced us to a
major bank and a prominent venture capital firm we never would
have had access to. Our banker made a number of significant
introductions that led to important sales appointments.
This technique is so easy to use, it's ridiculous not to. Make a
list of all the professional service providers you do business
with. Ask them to make introductions to high level executives at
major corporations in your behalf. If they won't do this, or if
they don't have the contacts to do so, consider finding another
professional service provider.
What I've covered in this issue is a brief introduction to the
many ways to "grease the chute" in getting your products in front
of major corporations. There are many more ways that work equally
as well. I'll cover more of these techniques in future issues.
For now, you have plenty to start with. You have five different
ways to get access to major corporations that can mean huge
contracts for your business.
. . .
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