UNDERSTANDING THE CORPORATE BUYER
C.J. Hayden, MCC
Selling your services to corporations is an attractive proposition. The
contracts are larger than with small businesses and individuals, and often
longer-term. There's the possibility of repeat business worth many billable
hours at respectable rates.
But the best clients are not always the easiest to get. If you don't grasp
the realities of the corporate environment, you may sabotage even a hot
lead. Here are five important keys to working with the corporate buyer.
1. Managers are busy. This is just as true in economic downturns as
during a boom. When business is slow, unnecessary employees get laid off.
The people left behind have to pick up the slack.
Busy people ignore unsolicited email and letters, and will not return your
phone calls. Even when you are in the final stages of closing a deal, your
contact may not return your calls for weeks. If you accept this as normal
behavior instead of obsessing about how you may have caused it, you will
sleep better at night and use your daylight hours more productively.
2. Hot buttons open doors. If you want to capture the interest of a
busy person, you need to tell them exactly how you can help them. Calling
just to introduce yourself will not get their attention.
What do the people in your target market perceive to be the greatest
problems they face, or the biggest goals they wish to achieve? Ask these
questions of the people you serve and the other businesspeople who serve
them. Read trade literature or special interest publications and educate
yourself on the key issues in your marketplace. Then tell your prospects in
every communication how you can help address these needs.
3. Every choice must be justified. When you sell to the owner of a
small business or to an individual for his or her own use, your buyer is
free to make purchasing decisions based on instinct, whim, or gut feeling.
But every corporate sale must be justified to someone else in the
A supervisor must justify choices to a manager, the manager to an executive,
the executive to the CEO, the CEO to the board, the board to the
shareholders. Each one of these people wants to look good to the next link
up the chain, and dreads making a public mistake. If you want your sale to
go through, you need to provide your contact with EVIDENCE why you and your
solution are the best choice.
4. The bottom line rules. When you provide your evidence, it had
better include dollars and cents. If you are more expensive than your
competition, what added value will you provide? If hiring you will cost more
than solving the company's problem in some other way, what tangible benefits
will they receive that make the added expense worthwhile?
Individuals and small businesses buy services in the category of
nice-to-have, often to improve their quality of life or that of their
employees. Corporations, especially in lean times, don't. You must sell them
something they actually NEED and prove how it will enhance their bottom
line. Real-life examples of results at other companies can speak volumes.
Illustrations with charts and graphs are more convincing than any brochure.
5. No budget; no project. Even when the company needs what you have
and thinks you're the best one for the job, the deal won't go through if
there's no money in the budget. You can ask your contact to try for a budget
variance, but no budget usually means your project will be deferred until
the next fiscal year.
Always ask if the client has a budget at the first meeting. Don't
necessarily expect them to tell you how much it is -- price negotiations
will come later. But if your contact can't answer budget questions, it's
also a strong clue you are not talking to the decision-maker.
See you in the major leagues,
C.J. Hayden, MCC
C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Clients NOW! Since 1992, C.J. has been
teaching business owners and salespeople to make more money with less
effort. She is a Master Certified Coach and leads workshops internationally.
Read more of her articles at