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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 own.

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 pharmaceutical company.

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 your industry.

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 away!

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 company.

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 our industry.

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.

Conclusion

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.

. . .

Have a question you'd like to have Bob Serling answer in this ezine?
Post it to: labrants@lists.product-labs.com
Contact Information: support@product-lab.com

Copyright 2002 by Bob Serling All rights reserved



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