Claim Your Expertise
Corporate decision makers want to
work with experts who can jump right
in and make an impact, which is why
you need to concentrate initially on
vertical or horizontal niches where your
professional background positions you
as an invaluable resource.
For example, if you worked in banks,
you have higher credibility with financial services institutions. With an IT
pedigree, the high-tech industry makes
more sense. Personally, I focus on a horizontal niche that spans market segments, but has a common set of
issues—business-to-business (B2B) sales
forces involved in the complex sale.
A narrower scope creates more opportunities in big companies, even if it feels
like you’re walking away from potential
business. The more doors you try to
keep open, the weaker your messaging
is to corporate decision makers.
Focus Your Efforts
Target 10 firms you’d like as clients.
Once you’ve decided your list, break
the monoliths into bite-sized chunks.
Each big company has a handful of
large business units containing multiple
divisions, which are then broken down
into departments such as legal, human
resources or customer service. It’s easier
to get in at these entry points than at
the corporate level. You can find organizational info on company Web sites
or in online resources such as Hoovers,
OneSource or Dow Jones Factiva.
Your next step is to figure out whom
to contact. List the various titles of people who could hire you. If you work
with marketing, you might initiate contact with the chief marketing officer,
vice president of marketing or marketing director. Several good online
resources for uncovering names include
Jigsaw and LinkedIn. Of course, you
can always pick up the phone, call the
company and start searching for the
people who are concerned about the
problems you solve.
Learn more from Jill and other
experts at the Branding and
Promotion Jam Session
May 2– 4 in Boston, Mass.
Pay the “Price of Admission”
Corporate decision makers expect you
to be knowledgeable about their business. Prior to initiating contact, you
must conduct research. To gain their
respect, you need to know what’s happening in their organization, industry
trends, goals, high priority initiatives,
challenges and competitive situations.
Much of this information is available
on corporate Web sites.
I suggest looking for problem indicators, information that leads you to
believe organizations are struggling
with issues you could resolve, and
opportunity indicators, information
that points to objectives you can help
them attain. Personally, I look for companies with aggressive growth goals
that can’t be reached without adding a
significant number of new clients.
While this may sound like a lot of
work, it actually speeds up your sales
cycle. Why? Because today’s stressed
out, overworked decision makers refuse
to waste their time with someone they
need to educate about the basics.
Develop a Strong
To capture the attention of corporate
decision makers, your messaging must
include a strong proposition that clearly
articulates the business outcomes they
can expect by bringing you in. Forget
using words like dynamic, motivational
or entertaining. Stop talking about your
full range of service offerings or unique
methodologies. All this is irrelevant.
Instead, define yourself by the impact
you make. For example, I never say that
I do sales training or that I am a sales
speaker. When I talk to corporate decision makers, our conversation centers on
how I can help speed up their sales cycle,
increase sales productivity or shorten
time to revenue. Notice the business terminology, as well as the movement
(increase, shorten) from the status quo.
Because the corporate market
demands that you speak the language of
business, it’s imperative to choose the
right words to describe what you do.
Leverage Triggering Events
The fastest way to get into a big company is to contact decision makers
when they’re undergoing changes that
create opportunities for your services.
These “triggering events” could be
internal happenings such as mergers,
layoffs, new leadership, venture funding or poor second quarter earnings.
Or, they could be external occurrences
such as competitive moves, legislation,
hurricanes or even world events.
To find your best triggering events,
review your client base to see what
drove the need for bringing you in.
Then start monitoring the business press
or trade journals for opportuntiies. You
might also want to set Google or Yahoo
alerts to automatically notify you when
companies announce news you can use.
Launch a Campaign
Corporate decision makers are tough
to reach. It can often take eight to 10
“touches” to catch one in person, so
don’t give up too soon. Use a variety
of mediums such as phone, e-mail,
postcards and letters spread out over
time. Plan on doing something every
To get your foot in the door, each contact needs to concisely demonstrate
you’ve done your homework. Mention
relevant information you’ve uncovered in
your research or a triggering event. Then
share your value proposition, clearly