Published On: Mon, May 30th, 2016

My Entrepreneur Magazine Special Focus: Catching the big fish

Entrepreneurs, business leaders, managers, and sales professionals – we all share a strong desire to win that one large contract that has the potential to change the face of our business.

More often than not, a big client – a “Big Fish” – brings in this deal. But how easy are they to capture? It can be difficult, time-consuming and fairly costly. There are some good practice and tips that can however, shorten the capture time and increase the chances of positive closure.

A Big Fish is an ensemble of smaller ones

There is no such thing as a Large Company. There are entities in which a lot of people work together under the same brand name. This is what we commonly refer to as a ‘big company’.

Why is considering this point of view important? Because it is critical to realise from the outset that capturing a Big Fish is about capturing a part of it.

So the first thing to do is to properly target the part that is relevant to your business. If you miss the mark, you can end up spending months in the wrong part of the business and your chances to sign a deal are close to none.

How can you make that happen? By simply asking questions. When introduced to a Big Fish, do not start selling. You do not know them. They do not know you. And most of the time, they will only mildly care about your offering, if at all.

Take a little bit of time to learn more about the beast you are targeting. Where do the people you are engaged with fit in the organisation? Are they the right people to talk to? Do they have pain points or needs that are strong enough to make your offer relevant?

You might be lucky and find yourself in the right place the first time. If so, celebrate because this is rare! Quite often, your early introductions will allow you to map the organisation you are trying to get involved with and to target the division, team, people that you should really engage with.

You are talking to people… surrounded by constraints!

This is probably the most common sentence in sales: “People buy from people”. And it is very true.

But as nice, friendly, trustworthy as they may find you, they have a set of constraints, just like you. If they do not have the authority to proceed, or any budget allocated, chances are you will not close a deal.

However,  you can very much help them solve some of their issues or provide them with support. You have to give to receive. Give some of your time to genuinely help your counterpart with what bothers them.

It may not give you a contract, but it will make you feel good, and you will also earn yourself an ally that knows they can rely on you.

If your contacts are struggling with securing a budget or raising the priority of the matter where you could have a win, work with them to build the business case, internal presentation or financial model.

By doing so, you will learn a lot about your Big Fish, and how it operates. You will get to meet more people from within, which is a fantastic opportunity to build your own network inside, gain more visibility and ultimately refine your value proposition.

It is not about you

You have finally gained access to the Big Fish – you are now at the right place, talking to the right people who have approval to proceed and a budget.

However, you have not reached your final destination yet.

At this point in time, a lot of sales people make a critical mistake: they start thinking about themselves and their business primarily, thus demonstrating a lack of interest that can simply annihilate all your previous effort.

At this stage, you want to spend even more time understanding the needs, pain points and objectives of your prospect. This is where you have to refine your offer, not to make it good for you, but to ensure you will deliver a maximum level of satisfaction to your future client.

And just because it is a large organisation, do not assume they have a lot of money. They are actually often quite budget-constrained, and the writer of the check is likely to be under intense scrutiny when it comes to their financial performance.

Don’t be too greedy. Get in with a compelling proposition, one that genuinely gives good value for money. Deliver. Excel. Over-deliver. And that will open up more opportunities, leading to that big deal of yours.

Be patient

If you work in a structure smaller than the Big Fish you target, chances are you will get frustrated at times. These large firms are slow, and their internal politics are raging.

There is nothing you can do about that; it is a fact of life. Displaying signs of impatience or frustration will slow you down because it is frustrating for everyone, especially for the people who work in these big firms. They did not create the slowness and the politics. They suffer from them.

Show your support. Try and help where you can – for instance, if you have the opportunity, give them a quick phone call that can ease a situation.

But be mindful of managing sensitivities. You will have at best a handful of people that will champion you internally. Never bypass them  as they would feel betrayed and rightly so. Involve them in your actions and ensure that you are doing the right thing by them. Not only is it the decent thing to do, it will reinforce their trust. And in time, it will pay off.

Of course, there is plenty more involved in capturing any deals, let alone large ones and Big Fishes. But being honest, patient and caring is necessary if not sufficient, and it will get you a long way.

About the Author

- Stephane Ibos is CEO and co-founder of Maestrano, an innovative cloud services business management platform, launched in 2014 in Australia. The company attracted funding from leading information technology heavyweights in its first six months of trading and was widely recognised as revolutionising the way SMBs manage business systems in the cloud. Since then, Maestrano has expanded its operations in Australia, the US, the UAE, South East Asia and Europe and secured a global patent for its core technology Connec!™ and smart reporting Impac!™. Maestrano serves SMBs and Enterprise customers in more than 17 countries.

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