I love selling. It sounds crazy to some people, but engaging face-to-face in sales is one of my favorite thrills. There’s no arena of selling more exciting than making major deals with big corporations.
I’m going to share my nutshell guide to the sales strategies I’ve used to build up my personal career. I’ve been both looking forward to this (because I love selling), and also feeling a little awkward about it these tactics have long been what I consider the aces I stuff up my sleeve.
Now, this post isn’t for everyone. Not every entrepreneur or salesperson wants to play the big-business game. However, the principles you’re about to read apply to a whole range of situations beyond boardroom pitches, including those that tiny businesses or self-employed individuals face.
If you’re considering getting into corporate space, let me offer a word of encouragement: Selling at the enterprise level is simply fantastic. When one sales meeting results in hundreds of thousands of dollars, you’ll never want to sell to anyone else.
Want to learn how to put together the ultimate deal? Get ready to find out.
Leverage a key contact
This is the biggest sales secret I know – it’s how I built my business consulting career. And the best part is the simplicity of this secret: Never, ever, make a totally cold call. Always introduce yourself by way of a connection – someone whom your prospect knows.
If you have to call someone, then tell them about your work with competitors in their vertical market. On the call, mention that your client is facing a particular business challenge (one that you know your prospect also faces), and that you’d like this person’s opinion. “I was just at lunch with so-and-so, and we were trying to figure out THIS industry challenge what’s your take on that?”
Then ask the person if they’d like to meet up. “Oh, interesting! Can I buy you lunch so that we can talk about this a bit more?”
You have to be artful and careful about this strategy, because it’s easy to get it wrong, but it works. In the last five years, this specific tactic has helped me convert at 100%. You’ll get an appointment every single time.
Here’s another way to leverage a contact: At a networking event, don’t bother shaking hands with strangers. Go find the one person you know and introduce yourself to the people that person is talking to. Mention how you know that person.
This is the art of the sales hustle. It sends a clear image to prospects that you’ve got it going on. You’re out there playing with competitors, you have something to say and you have smart questions to ask.
When you introduce yourself this way, you’re making it clear that sitting down with you is valuable for a company CEO – even if that’s all they ever get to do.
Be 200% accountable
You want to deliver a solution to a big company? Want them to love it, love you and love your style? Accountability is the secret.
The biggest concern of reluctant corporate decision-makers is that they’ll invest in an outsourced solution where a 3rd party consultant ends up delivering the solution like a pizza. Don’t make that mistake – never finish the job, take the cash and run.
Instead, clearly convey that you stick around to provide the support that ensures your solution gets delivered, installed, set up, presented, etc, with optimal performance and all the expert tweaking possible. Show the company evidence that delivering 200% matters to you, especially during your pitch, by using testimonials.
Even better, take responsibility for measuring the success of the project or service you implement for the client. Then put in the extra mile and work to increase its performance.
When you sell something to a company, get rid of the attitude that “your mileage may vary”. Make sure their mileage is perfect, as promised, even if it means creating a temporary job for yourself within the company while you’re working with them.
BONUS TIP: Budget this extra effort into your original proposal so you don’t end up regretting your excessive helpfulness.
Out-dress your opponent
Deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars can be made (or destroyed) by a fifteen-second window of perception. It happens the moment you walk through the door, when they take their first look at you.
In the corporate world, dressing for the part is extremely important. When we meet strangers, human nature makes us defer to materialistic judgment of character. We all do it. Don’t waste time hating it – get with the program and dress for success.
The basic rule of thumb is that you should always slightly out-dress your prospect. That means if you’re selling to a trendy cool web startup, you need to beÂ very trendy and just a shade more formal. If they wear jeans, you wear designer jeans!
I have quite a few clients in the investment banking and financial services industry. Sometimes the only way I can out-dress my prospects is to rock out a tailored custom suit – including tie, French cuffs AND a pocket square. I laugh at myself in the mirror, but those outfits enable me to close prospects whose offices are so high up, I get altitude sickness.
By the way, I’ve also tested the “don’t bother” theory, the “take me as I am” theory AND the “smart-casual” theory. None work. Stack the odds in your favor and invest (big time) in a superb wardrobe.
Follow up with value
One of the classic sales principles is the 7 points of contact. You’ve probably heard of that one already (and sometimes the numbers vary). It’s a solid principle, and it’s crucial in the world of enterprise selling.
Most people won’t make up their mind right away, even if your pitch is perfect. They’ll want to go away and think, especially if you’re pitching a big-ticket product or service.
So get the most leverage by following up immediately (i.e. within thirty minutes) by sending a quick email thanking them for their time and giving them that file they asked to see.
Uh huh. I always deliberately leave out an essential piece of sales collateral at every single meeting I attend. A key testimonial, a report, a case study It doesn’t matter what it is – just make sure you don’t bring it.
Send it right after your meeting. Touch your prospect with a point of contact.
BONUS TIP: End your email with a poignant question.
This technique can work so perfectly that it actually shortens your sales cycle, helping you close deals faster. Why? Because if you can squeeze a reply out of your (insanely busy) prospect, you’ll kick off a dialogue where you can manage all objections and answer any questions.
Then your next meeting is just a formality – simply an opportunity to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. That’s the power of strategic follow-up.
Don’t be available
This is a really sneaky one, and it’s best used early in the sales cycle. The secret to successful corporate sales lies in making sure your prospect respects you and looks up to you as an authority.
One of the best ways to demonstrate this is to show that you’ve already got something going on. That means you’re not quite available right this second.
It’s one of the scariest concepts for a newbie salesperson or entrepreneur to embrace, simply because it feels like you’re saying no to an opportunity. Hell, you probably NEED that sale, right?
Wrong. You have to be unavailable.
When you tell your client that you appreciate their interest, but you’re booked solid for the next six weeks, you send a clear signal that you’re s*** hot. Deep in their unconscious mind, the seeds of scarcity are sown, and now your prospect sees you in a different light.
If you’re not booked solid? Remember that “booked solid” doesn’t necessarily mean “with client work”. Your family books you. Friends book you. That hot TV show your watching books you.
Here’s the thing: If you tell clients you’re booked solid a few times, you’ll actually make it come true. Believe that your time is valuable and a scarce commodity (at least, scarce for clients) and you make it so.
Once you start living this truth, the funnel flips and people start rearranging their schedules to fit you in.
Here’s an example: I travel a lot, for fun and business, so I can be “just arriving” and “just departing” when I speak with prospects. Small windows of limited availability speed up my sales. Additionally, I hire other people to engage in basic account management of my corporate relationships, simply so that the client knows that when they get my personal attention, it’s a Big Deal.
Return on investment is the granddaddy of buzzwords and the coup de grace of all sales tactics.
I’ve ranted about demonstrating ROI a few times before, but I’m repeating it here simply because it’s so damned important. It’s the most powerful selling technique I know, and I’ll explain why:
Demonstrating return on investment means showing your corporate prospect that when they spend X amount of money buying your product or service, they’ll make Y amount of money after they do.
Now, when Y is larger than X and the cost of implementation is nil or accounted for then well, technically, buying your solution doesn’t cost them anything. In fact, buying your solution makes money in a cash-flow positive decision!
Imagine me saying to you that if you give me $5, I’ll give you back $10. That’s how the perfect corporate pitch should work. If you can demonstrate the ROI and show there’s very little (or no) risk, then you’ll close deals faster than a speeding bullet.
You want to hear your prospective decision-makers say, “It’s a no brainer”. The only way to get them to utter these magic words is to clearly show them the ROI.
If you’re selling a soft-solution (consulting, coaching, whatever) then you have no excuse. You need to back up your pitch with studies and testimonials that explain the commercial value of such solutions.
If you can’t demonstrate ROI, then I’ve some really bad news for you: Your product is probably never going to get traction in the market. Corporate decision-makers almost never buy on emotion alone.
So what do you think? If you’re in corporate sales, let me know what I’ve left out of this toolkit of strategies. What sales tactics do you use? Or, if you’re in the self-employed field, share how you might apply some of these principles, even unconventionally!