How Your Small Business Can Attract a Big Client
Going after big clients may seem like a daunting task. However, whatever their size, all businesses have similar needs and challenges for which they seek quality solutions. If you can demonstrate that you offer those solutions, you could prove to be an ideal partner or provider.
To that end, here are five tips for attracting big clients:
1. Do your research. Never approach a prospective client without thoroughly researching its people and products ahead of time. Plenty of basic information is available on a company’s website and through its social media presence. Check out the owner’s LinkedIn profile and the company's Facebook page. Of course, you should already be knowledgeable about the industry the client serves. Positioning yourself as a well-informed resource helps to establish your credibility and demonstrates your value to the potential client.
Doing research also means learning how your prospective client conducts business. Who do you really want to meet with? Who makes decisions, the CEO or another executive? Does the process include completing an RFP? Learn and follow the client’s established processes and you’ll likely get a quicker response.
2. Get noticed. Before approaching a potential client, mention its business in your tweets. Talk about its innovations or contributions, or retweet its own messages, with links to its site. Invite mutual contacts to make introductions on LinkedIn. Write blog posts that illustrate the knowledge and experience you bring to projects that the client might be considering.
3. Talk to the right person (or people). In a big business, it’s not easy getting access to the decision-maker — that’s one of the few differences between large and small companies. Almost without exception, you’ll have to start with the gatekeepers. Receptionists and executive assistants are the ones who will determine whether or not you get through to the decision-maker. Get to know support staff and treat them with respect. Impress them with your professionalism and your determination to help their business.
4. Make a pitch that meets their needs, not yours. Your introductory efforts have paid off, now it’s time for the pitch meeting. Being nervous about how you’ll come across is natural. Think of your pitch as a conversation between you and any client. Focus on listening — really listening — to the prospective client’s problems and pain points. Answer questions that illustrate your ability to address their #1 concern: What’s in it for me? Be confident and enthusiastic. Everyone responds favorably to a person who’s sincerely excited about what they have to offer.
Bring along the any employees or contractors who will work on the proposed project. This puts a face on the talented problem-solvers the client would like to hire and addresses any concerns they have about your business being too small. Remember that the potential client is only interested in the solutions your small business can provide: How can you save the client time and money? How can you help the client enter new markets? What challenges can the client overcome by using your product or service?
Be mindful of everyone’s time. Your pitch should not last longer than a half hour (including time for questions). By delivering a crisp, concise, and well-prepared presentation, you exhibit the professional traits every client wants in a potential partner.
5. Be professional in all of your communications. Before, during, and after the meeting, make sure all of your contact with the client is thorough and professional. When sending an email, check the spelling of the person’s name and then check it again. Don't let any typos or misspelled words slip through. Never give anyone a reason to reject you because of careless errors.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.