Since I started writing for Women on Business, I’ve focused on particular women’s issues and perspectives. But I have not introduced you properly to Whale Hunting, which is my company’s system to grow your business fast by selling bigger deals to bigger customers. So that’s my topic for today.
When you are a smaller company selling to other small companies, you can conduct a relationship sale– owner-to-owner or lead sales person to executive-level buyer, for example. But as you move into bigger organizations and more complex sales, everything changes in the sales process.
The bigger the customer you target, the more people will be involved in the buying decision. We call those people “the buyers’ table,” the group who will be affected by a decision to buy and who will influence that decision. It will be your job to discover who they are and what they need in order to make a positive decision about you. And in today’s world of increasing regulation to counteract mistrust, you will discover big companies deliberately increasing the distance between you and their buyers. So you shouldn’t go alone, and you can’t buy them a beer or invite them to a golf outing-you need to launch a boat.
In the Whale Hunters vernacular, that means recruiting, training, and involving a team to hunt the whale. The harpooner-chief salesperson on a hunt-is responsible to orchestrate the team who populate your boat. I recommend these steps to prepare for a successful hunt:
- Identify members of the buyers’ table. First step is for your harpooner (and that may be you!) to get in the door for an opening conversation. Then, ask direct questions about who will be affected by a buying decision. Who are the end users? How will IT or legal or customer service be involved? Will you interact with HR for training? In these early conversations, the harpooner is testing whether your contact person can and will bring the buyers’ table to meetings with you.
- Recruit members of your boat. Once you know who’s representing the whale, put your boat together. You’ll need two kinds of people on your boat: (1) your people who will deliver services to the whale, and (2) your people and/or allies who can demonstrate your capability to carry out this big deal.
- Internal Boat Members: Select the most appropriate members from your staff to populate the boat. In addition to the harpooner and a key executive, you will need other people who oversee your deliverables. Your boat may include a financial analyst, a trainer, a data manager, an account manager-whoever are the important leaders on your team who organize the delivery of goods and services.
- External Boat Members: If your company is very small, or if you are missing key areas in your presentation, recruit external allies to populate your boat. Your banker can attest to the availability of a line of credit. Your accountant can report on fiscal solvency and bookkeeping procedures. Satisfied customers can talk about the reliability and timeliness of your service and its impact on their bottom line.
- Train the boat. Once you’ve populated your boat, it’s time to teach them how to participate. We recommend a process to “power your boat.” That means equipping each person with power tools, power points, and power questions to have at their disposal during a presentation. What are the key points that each person should make in a sales meeting? What are the key tools to illustrate those points-e.g. case studies, graphs, charts, testimonials, or other collateral materials? And what are the key questions that each of your participants should ask of the whale’s buyers-questions that allow you to learn more about their needs and also demonstrate your team’s capabilities?
- Rehearse. When you’ve prepared your boat, go through a complete dress rehearsal before the launch. Recruit some others to play roles of the buyers’ table. Make sure everyone is comfortable about what to say and when to be quiet. Review dress code and other protocol issues.
- Present. Now you’re ready! Any small to mid-sized company can prepare to be perceived as a capable, professional team who are big enough and well-enough prepared to deliver on a big deal.
But it takes research, recruitment, training, and practice in order to win the deal.
If you want to learn more, you can download preparation worksheets [at no charge] from my website at www.thewhalehunters.com. And all of the readers will benefit if you share stories about big deal experiences and how you’ve populated and trained your boat!
Are you a midwestern business woman? Please consider attending the Whale Hunting Women Summit, June 4, in Indianapolis, Indiana. [And please do follow me on http://twitter.com/whalehunters] Thanks!