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Are you are in sales or marketing and trying to figure out how to sell to today’s modern and incredibly busy buyer? If so, this post is for you.

You may only get eight seconds; make the most of it.

Every conference works hard to find just the right keynote speaker to educate, entertainment and inspire the audience. I don’t know about you, but I typically find greater value in the breakout sessions, where speakers dive in and provide the information that makes you better at whatever you do or want to be.

As a speaker at a recent conference, I had the opportunity to sit in on the session before mine. I was intrigued by the topic: the increasing complexity of doing business with a Fortune 10 company. Within minutes, I was absorbed in the details she shared. (By the way, I am not sharing her name or company to save her from more unnecessary email).

Her presentation focused on the process for working with large Fortune 10 companies, including the Do’s and Don’ts for salespeople. So read on, study this against your marketing and sales process and share it with your colleagues.

I see a lot written on the buyer persona. Clients share their buyer personas with me all of the time. Most overlook several considerations that define a corporate buyer.

  • They are in back-to-back meetings and are often five to ten minutes late for meetings. This means that, many times, they haven’t processed the last meeting before needing to refocus for the next.
  • They are highly experienced in their field but often a novice when dealing with all their company’s compliance and regulatory requirements.
  • They have supplier (I despise the word vendor) and client-side experience, so they understand your frustration but need to follow their company’s process.
  • They have inboxes that overflow with emails from internal folks on current projects, messages from their higher ups and a slew from salespeople who say they have the next best thing that demands attention.
  • They are exhausted and often begin their work after the workday ends.

In this presentation, the speaker shared a screenshot that showed the number of emails from a salesperson, attempting to catch her attention and arrange a meeting. She also showed a list of emails highlighting how many internal people touch a particular project before it even begins. It was eye-opening.

We know it often takes eight to twelve touches to reach someone, and persistence is critical to the sales process, but at what cost? Could it turn off the person you want to meet, know and work with?

I see this all of the time. I download an ebook, and I’m now in their sales funnel. I receive a call, multiple emails, etc. within hours or days, and then regret signing up in the first place. Where do we, as marketers and salespeople, draw the line? I appreciate when the salesperson checks out the lead they receive from marketing before their initial outreach. To assume everyone that downloads something is a good prospect is silly. I want people to download our content and get to know us. I am not looking to convert everyone who reads our content.

So what’s a salesperson to do? According to the presenter, do the following:

  • Show specific examples of how you’ve helped a client succeed and key deliverables (you don’t need to reveal the client).
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss costs. Refrain from asking what their budget is and give them your costs first.
  • If you offer a new technology or digital platform, offer to do a small pilot or project at no/low cost to show it in action. Note: ask to roll this out with a group of people who will buy in and are excited about using new tools.
  • Send thoughtful, well-written emails. Note: this is critical and makes a difference.
  • Use your network. Ask an existing client in a non-competing space to proactively recommend or introduce you. Note: this is where your LinkedIn network is immeasurably valuable. See our posts on centers of influence (COI).
  • When meeting, listen more than talk.

If you’re a smaller business, think about working through an established partner. (See why below).

Now, here’s a list of what not to do. Take this seriously and vet your current practices against this. I know I will be.

  • Don’t use a “messenger” to deliver your message. Note: lots of people and companies are using appointment setters to arrange meetings. Most often those people know nothing about the person/company/products/services and end up blowing the conversation. If a corporate buyer picks up the phone (the holy grail) hears from a surrogate instead of you, how impressed do you think they will be? Granted 90% of the time those calls goes to voicemail, but what about the 10% that pick up? Are you willing to forego the impression of one ideal prospect? You decide.
  • Don’t send “canned” email correspondence. Note: she referenced receiving emails where within the email there are different fonts and sizes. A dead giveaway.
  • Leaving long voice messages won’t get attention.
  • Don’t call from a cell phone unless you have good cell service.
  • Don’t contact multiple people across the company with the same email or voicemail. They all get forwarded. See, below for more.
  • Once a connection and appointment are set up, don’t try to set up additional meetings with the boss.
  • Don’t use a call center to contact your prospects repeatedly.

I would like to add one additional “don’t”:  Don’t say you want to set up a time to learn more about their company. Be specific. They don’t have time to bring you up to date on their company. Go to their website, LinkedIn Company Page and social channels for insight.

CEB says there is, on average, 5.4 people involved in every B2B buying decision. Identify them upfront and be prepared to speak to each of their areas of interest.

The speaker’s company is no exception and usually includes the following:

  • Business leader
  • Procurement
  • Legal
  • Compliance
  • Auditing
  • You and your team

Identify these people up front, know who they are; not to reach out to them but to prepare when you meet. Consider what they need to know about you, your company and your product/services to move the engagement forward. Ask your point of contact if it would make sense, at this time, to include specific people. Since you know their titles, you can look them up on LinkedIn.

It’s more impressive to ask if (insert specific name) would benefit from the joining the meeting rather than saying, please invite anyone you think would benefit.

If you think you’ve already had to do quite a bit of work, you’re right. Getting an appointment with corporate decision makers is not for the faint-hearted. Hold on, though. It’s just the beginning. Don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of the 45-60 minutes you have with them. Ask great questions. And, follow up. They may not need your offering today but if they took the time to meet, stay connected. Consider the following:

  • Connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Ask how they prefer to communicate (phone, regular email, LinkedIn, texting, Twitter etc.) Don’t assume or think it’s consistent among your buyers.
  • Stay in touch by sharing your company’s content. Industry insight, trends, and stats are valuable. Don’t overlook their company’s content either.
  • Share valuable insight they are posting. If they are not posting, see if they “Like” anything and consider sharing it too.

Let’s say the meeting went well and they’ve given you the green light on a project; don’t get so excited. You’ve only reached the next hurdle, which will probably include signing or providing the following:

  • NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement)
  • MSA (Master Service Agreement)
  • Conduct Vendor Assessment
  • Indemnification (may range from 1 to 15 million dollars)
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement)
  • SOW (Statement of Work)

Some of these are quick and easy. Others are complex, depending on the organization. They are simpler if you have no pushback. If your legal team needs to be involved, you should plan on weeks and months of back and forth. Don’t forget to find out how invoicing and payments are processed. The larger the company, the longer their terms typically. Net 75 or 90 days is a long time to wait for payment for most small to mid-sized companies.

The pricing you provide to large companies is crucial. Often we want to go in low, especially with a small project to get our foot in the door. They want that too but think about the upfront time and effort that goes into the project. Small to mid-sized companies may not be able to float those costs.

I appreciated the speaker saying that it’s not always in everyone’s best interests to work with such large companies. I agree. In a recent conversation with Bob Miller, the founder of Miller Heiman, the world’s largest sales training company, he reflected that too often everyone is lured into the notion that working with these enterprise companies is the panacea but often it’s not and can be detrimental to a small business. The Sharks on Shark Tank caution people about working with the Big Box Companies all the time.

In the end, our speaker, (possibly your client or prospect) spends her days slogging uphill, hoping to find a bit of time to do the work she is passionate about doing. Keep that in mind the next time you start to pursue a new prospect.

I hope this post makes you pause and consider.

  • Are you clued in to who the modern buyer is and do you understand their perspective?
  • Are you more apt to engage with or annoy the person who you claim is your ideal prospect?
  • How can you stand out and make their life better?