Guest Post: 5 Brutally Honest Tips for Closing a Fortune 500

December 15, 2016 - 7 minutes read

So you have decided that you want to fish in the biggest of all ponds – 12 Trillion in revenues and 840 Billion in profits mean this is a popular market segment that many tech companies aspire to service, but closing a Fortune 500 requires more than just carefully planning a sales campaign that focuses on value for those potential customers.

In the typical setting for smaller sales, we often craft our sales pitch around our product benefits, the target audience and the industry on the whole.

However, the truth is that the best product in the world doesn’t necessarily help convince your prospects in Fortune 500s. You will often encounter prospects that have their own agenda. They might need a new solution to look good in front of their bosses. They might want to show numbers just to hit an internal quota. They might even want to use your solution to gain an advantage over another colleague in career progression. Put your ego aside and come to terms with the fact that some prospects might not even care about your product. They’re only doing this for their own personal benefit.

These situations are very real and it is up to us to understand that Fortune 500 sales require much more than what we can analyze on paper.

So here are 5 honest tips for closing big companies based on my personal experience.

Tip #1
Always focus on the people, not the deal. Tempting as it is to project a potential solution early in the relationship, this limits the potential for both parties. Whilst the time investment is significant, you also want a significant deal. Invest that time. While working at Cisco it wasn’t uncommon for us to invest 18-24+ months in an account before we took the relationship to a consistent seven figure a year return.
As mentioned before, we have to know the customer to know why they’re doing this. And the best way is to first know them as people, not customers.
Tip #2
Understand the market drivers affecting your target, and thoroughly research them at every level. Once you understand what the driving forces are within an organization, you can start to map your stakeholders. Investments are always linked to an initiative so know what these initiatives are and who owns them.  
A major UK newspaper which was a customer of mine for networking infrastructure requested a Datacentre refresh proposal from their incumbent channel partner. They eventually were displaced by a smaller partner who had mapped the editors and creative staff and understood that a vastly different architecture was required to support their shift away from print to digital.
Tip #3
Map your stakeholders clearly. As stated before, initiatives have users, owners and someone who is footing the bill. This is about understanding the political landscape within a customer’s organization. Gain allies within the company that will help your sales process.
Early in my career I was sidestepped by the CFO of a hedge fund customer I was selling to, he called my boss at 4pm on the last day of the Quarter; accepting our offer if it came with a 50% discount. This was an expensive lesson in properly mapping my organizations short term goals with a savvy buyer.
Tip #4
Focus on helping the customer. There are many ways you can do this. One of the least used and most effective is to introduce them to their peers from another organization, someone that has been an existing customer and has been through a similar situation.
Generally, these customers are willing to attend a social event. It’s pretty common for us technology sales professionals to host a CIO panel discussion where they are interviewed as an expert in their field. The benefit is clear for all involved, especially prospects you want to expose to true industry insights and of course if well managed your company begins to be seen as a thought leader.
Tip #5
Understand how your solution either saves cost or makes money for your target.Make a detailed proposal for your target. Ultimately, investments are rarely made for any other reason.
So by now, if you had been paying attention to the individual stakeholders and their agendas, you’d have won over a number of allies from within the company. However, for them to convince all other departments and decision makers involved, you’d still need your product to deliver real value. This gives your internal allies the ammunition they need to push you across the finish line.
After all, at the end of your sale, you still want your product to really make a difference and over deliver on your promises. The best way to do that is to have everyone involved on board and working together.

For startups operating in the financial/insurance space, there’s now an easy opportunity to sell directly to a Fortune 500. MetLife has launched an initiative that aims to purchase innovative tech products from startups.

Dubbed “Collab”, this special team within MetLife will be your ally and help you set up meetings and sell to the various internal stakeholders.

Find out more at the Collab website.

 


Dan Mountstephen

 

Guest Writer

Dan Mountstephen

Managing Director and Head of Business Development ASEAN at Unify (Enterprise communications software company servicing ~75% of the Fortune 500). The ASEAN Region of Unify is one of the fastest growing regions worldwide for this €1.2 billion per year business.