Whale cultures can be maddening to smaller, more entrepreneurial companies. Have you ever been selling into a very large company and left meetings perplexed because they would not make a decision that was so clearly in their best interests? How can you explain their reluctance? How can you bring them to a decision?
The nature of big companies and government agencies is to seek safety over benefit. The people who work there are often penalized for making a public mistake, and rarely for simply doing nothing or making a so-so decision. For that reason, fear trumps all other emotions in their process of making a decision. Smaller companies that sell to whales usually tout the benefits that they will provide, with little attention to the whale’s fears. Therefore they often make mistakes during their sales process that create fear in the whale and lead to unsuccessful hunts. To hunt more successfully, you must learn how to stop scaring whales.
Whales fear four circumstances:
- Change – any variation from what they are doing now
- Conflict – any disruption of the relationships between or within their departments or with their employees, customers, or current suppliers
- Work – any additional expenditure of effort or activity in the current workload of the people with whom you are meeting
- Failure – mistakes, shortcomings, problems, or any other public signs of a bad decision
The truth is that buyers in very large organizations – companies or government agencies – are not really looking for the most innovative or creative solution. They are looking for the safest solution that will work. They will only buy your advantages after you have allayed their fears.
So what can you do? Here’s a preparation activity. Make a list of all the ways you might scare a whale; for example, they are afraid you can’t scale up to meet their needs, or they don’t know your brand, or they’re not sure if you’ll be in business next year.
- Next to each fear, identify a “fear buster” – a tangible document that could allay that fear; for example, a case study, a financial statement, a customer testimonial, a process chart or and ROI graph. Fear busters are things that the whale can see or hear and distribute internally, not merely points that you make in a sales conversation.
- Rate each of your “fear buster” tools, assigning then a Plus if they’re really good or a Zero if they need improvement. If you need a fear buster tool that you don’t have, assign it a Minus.
- Work with your team over time to develop high quality, compelling fear buster tools.
Paying close attention to whale fears and developing the fear busters tools has been a powerful strategy for many of my clients. It’s a matter of devoting the same energy to the fears as you devote to your materials that tout and explain your advantages. If you first overcome the whale’s fears, they will be able to understand and appreciate the advantages that a smaller company brings to them.
A worksheet for this activity is available only at www.thewhalehunters.com under “free tools.”
Do you have a great fear buster? We’d love to hear about it.
Barbara Weaver Smith says
Cecilia, that is such a great comment and you are exactly right!
Cecilia Edwards says
I used to be an Air Force officer and had an opportunity to run and participate in some source selection processes. One great tip that I would add – a fear buster if you will – is to deliver exactly what they ask for in your proposal. If you choose to innovate, do that after you have clearly proposed how you would satisfy every requirement presented to you. Only then do you earn the right to suggest other options.
Equipping Businesses for Phenomenal Success