From the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Every account deserves the same attention and service, no matter its size. However, it can be more difficult to land a large account. The top decision-maker is often unavailable-at a meeting, on the phone, out of town. You'll probably have to double and redouble your efforts just to get an initial conversation.

If you want to reap the big rewards, you have to go after the big fish. And even though it will never be easy, these five strategies can help you increase your odds of success:

1. Sell from the top down. Don't let fear stop you from calling the big guns. You'll probably have to keep trying, but top-level executives will be able to give you a clear overview of the company's needs and concerns, as well as direct you to the person who handles your type of product or service. This is vital information in a large company with numerous divisions and confusing job titles.

2. Become mayor of the account. Candidates running for political office toil to meet as many voters as possible. When you're in the running for an account, you've got to do the same thing. Write a note of thanks to everyone you meet, and include some information that might interest them. You never know what their influence on the decision-maker might be or when they might be in the decision-making position themselves.

3. Use referrals to build contacts. The best way to get into a large account is via a positive reference from someone who can testify to the quality of your company's product or service. Often, the smartest question you can ask is "Do you know anyone else in your industry who might benefit from my product or service?" If the answer is yes, get as much information as you can about that person. (How do you know him or her? What is his or her function at that company?)

4. Be relentless. Three years ago, I approached a decision-maker about doing sales training for his organization. He looked me in the eye and said, "We do not hire outside trainers." I thanked him for not stringing me along but told him, "I'm going to learn as much as I can about your company and challenges, and one day, there's going to be an opportunity for us to work together." I spoke to him every few weeks for three years, calling with suggestions or ideas related to his needs and concerns. Over time, we developed a strong relationship, and he recently hired me. I was relentless in pursuing this account-not by constantly calling to make a sale, but by building a relationship I knew would pay off over time.

5. Stand out from the crowd. Large accounts are bombarded with new vendors. If you want to impress the top gun, load up with ammunition that separates you from the competition. You don't need to spend money on color and flash for your presentations or perform outrageous stunts to get noticed. You do need to have two or three major points that demonstrate your unique value, and you should do your homework so that your information is heavily focused on their goals and challenges.

The bottom line? Don't let the obstacles you encounter break your spirit. Every new company you approach will give you experience and teach you lessons about how to approach the next one.