A Note to Fortune 500 Salespeople (and the Unfortunate 5000)

Salespeople that sell for smaller companies often dread competing against larger, better known, and better-financed competitors. They believe that salespeople for these companies are better trained, better developed, and have a great advantage when it comes to competing for opportunities.

It’s difficult for salespeople at smaller firms to remember that these larger firms, let’s call them the Fortune 500 (even though there are many more) are equally subject to the Pareto principle, and that those of you that work for giants have a much, much larger bottom 80% in your sales rankings.

Salespeople who work for smaller firms know how to fight above their weight class. For those of you who work for gargantuan sales organizations, it is important that you remember how and why you lose.

You Lose by Believing Your Size Gives You an Advantage

In some cases, size and scale make a difference in producing results. When you call on your peers, other giant companies, things like controls, consistency, and consolidated spending are client needs that are difficult for some smaller firms to provide.

But it is a mistake to believe or behave as if size is an advantage. If you underestimate smaller, resourceful, aggressive competitors, you leave yourself open to being flanked by a salesperson that can provide advantages that far outweigh consolidated spending. The threat that you should worry about is that a smaller, scrappy rival firm will find a way to create more value than your size provides, eliminating any advantage you might have gained.

Winning means not believing that your size provides you an advantage, not believing the value created by size can’t be replicated, or believing that size alone always creates enough value to win.

You Lose by Being Inflexible

It is a mistake to believe that your offerings always provide an advantage against smaller competitors. In many cases, a smaller competitor can produce similar outcomes while being far more flexible in customizing the approach to exactly fit your dream client’s needs.

When you lock in on your offerings with statements as to how you do what you do, the processes and procedures that allow you to work at your scale begin to work against you with your dream client. This built-in inflexibility works against your doing some things the way that would work better for your dream client.

Enter your smaller, underestimated, and nimble rival who can provide the very same result while allowing your dream client to dictate their preferences as to how it is delivered.

Winning means selling inside and making sure you are flexible enough in your solution to win.

You Lose by Underestimating Relationships

Coming in at the last minute and attempting to win on size, name recognition, and an impressive dog and pony show sometimes works. But it is a mistake to underestimate relationships. Where and when you are at risk, it is because another salesperson at a smaller firm has spent their time developing and nurturing relationships.

Your company name may be known, but you are an unknown. The brand may deliver, but your dream client wants to know if you are going to deliver. Are you going to own the outcome?

The salesperson makes a difference in who wins opportunities. Winning means developing the relationships that winning requires; you can’t rely on your company’s name and size.

You Lose by Believing You Deserve to Win

You have to believe in yourself, in your company, and in what you are doing. But don’t for a second believe that you deserve to win. Just like the Unfortunate 5,000, you too have to pay in advance for your dream client.

Your company’s size, your company’s reputation, and all of the potential advantages that they may provide entitle you to exactly nothing.

Winning means being the very best salesperson and winning because you have done what winning requires. This means believing that you aren’t entitled to win your dream client’s opportunity, and that instead you are going to have to earn their business by doing the heavy lifting that is sales.

Questions

If you work for a large firm, what do you believe to be the advantages for your clients? What do you believe put those advantages at risk when you compete against smaller firms?

When does size and scope start to become a cost in providing a flexible approach in delivering the exact solution in the exact way your dream client demands?

How do you ensure that you build and nurture the relationships that you need to win? How do you nurture these with prospective clients who do not benefit from your size?

How do you prevent being beaten by a scrappy, nimble, aggressive, relationship-building, value-creating little firm?

Filed under: Sales 3.0

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