Today's article is from Barbara Weaver Smith, co-author of Whale Hunting, a guide for executives of smaller companies who want to land bigger customers.
To learn more about her ideas & strategies, check out the new Whale Hunters online community, newsletter and expert series interviews. (I was a recent guest!)
You'll find a lively discussion of small business growth, RFP strategies, sales development, sales resources, and business deals.
Why Big Companies are Afraid of You
As a seller, when you approach a big company you are most likely more concerned about your fears than theirs. After all, they are bigger, wealthier, more powerful—and they hold all the cards.
But the big-company buyers are very fearful of all their decisions, and a decision to do business with a small, unknown, or new company is a very risky move for the individual people who are charged with making a choice of providers.
Big companies are exceedingly risk averse, and careers are damaged and jobs lost by unpopular or unconventional decisions.
For these reasons, big companies are more interested in the safety of choosing you than the benefits you provide. Fear is the most potent emotion in their decision-making processes.
So here’s the rub. Smaller companies usually tout the benefits they will provide, with little attention to the big company’s fears. Therefore, they often make mistakes during their sales process that actually create fear and undermine their ability to make a sale.
To be more successful, you need to understand what they are afraid of, and take steps to alleviate those fears.
Big Company buyers fear four circumstances:
- Change. Any requirements to do anything differently from what they are doing now represent a big hassle.
- Conflict. Any decisions that colleagues or supervisors or other departments oppose are simply too risky to pursue.
- Work. If they perceive that your solution requires a lot more work on their part, they will not buy.
- Failure. If they choose you and you do not deliver, they will be held accountable for the bad choice.
Your job as a seller, then, is to alleviate those fears early in your sales process. What you don’t want is to lose a great opportunity very late in the game because you discover that someone on the buyers’ team is just too worried about you.
Here’s a process that works:
- Get your team together and brainstorm all of the reasons a big company might be afraid of you. These can be reasons you’ve already heard (“You don’t have experience in our industry”) or reasons that they rarely speak out loud (“Can they really ramp up to deliver this for us?”)
- Once you have a good handle on the fears, develop specific, tangible documents or other tools to counteract those fears, and introduce those things early in the sales process. Focus on your people, your processes, your technologies, and your tools. You may have to invent new ways to present these materials, but they are priceless.
- Prioritize these materials based on what you believe to be the most serious fears that big companies would have about you. Decide who on your sales team will present each of the “tangibles”, deliberately and early in your process, so that the big company buyers can begin to get beyond their fears and listen with interest to your benefits.
It may be hard to imagine that big companies are afraid of you, but they are. If you learn to alleviate their fears, you will close more big deals. I would love to hear your “big company fears” stories if you care to post a comment.
Barbara Weaver Smith, founder of the Whale Hunters, is an expert in dramatically accelerating an organization's growth trajectory.
She guides entrepreneurs, CEOs, and sales leaders with education, peer coaching, and team training on this winning process that has helped transform more than 300 companies and counting.