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Seven Tips for Selling to Big Businesses

Seven Tips for Selling to Big BusinessesWhat does it really take to sell to big corporations?

It turns out, many small businesses make some basic blunders in trying to sell to Fortune 500 companies, according to Hewlett-Packard's director of global supplier diversity and sustainability Brian Tippens and Dun & Bradstreet's senior analytical consultant Phyllis Meyer and D&B's risk management vice president Bill Balduino. Here are their tips on how to land a big corporate account:

1. Do your homework. Prepared entrepreneurs know what products or services the prospect is already using that they might be able to provide. They've scoped out the competition and are ready to explain why doing business with their small business will be better, says Tippens. 

2. Be ready with your short pitch. The "elevator pitch" is alive and well in the halls of big-company vendor departments, especially on mass "supplier day" events. Tippens says, be ready to explain what you do and why you're a better alternative within 30-60 seconds. "I've seen so many owners say: "What does H-P need?" says Tippens, "instead of saying: 'This is what I do really well. This is why I'm better than H-P's current solution.'"

3. Have your financials in order. Know that big-company buyers will investigate your credit, says Balduino, both when you land the account and on a regular basis. They're looking at doing business with you as a risk. "If your review shows you're in the red, you could lose the account." 

4. Be able to deliver. If you don't have the manufacturing capacity to sell a big national chain your product, make that clear at the outset. Balduino notes big companies want to form ongoing relationships, not make spot buys, so be sure you can provide the volume they need.

5. Plan to follow up. Buyers are busy. Be a little persistent -- but not a pest -- and buyers will get the picture that you're serious. Leave your meeting by asking: "What is the best way for me to follow up with you," says Tippens.

6. Get pro business cards. Meyer says a joke at D&B is: "You paid for both sides of the card, so use them." Put a special offer on the back, and make sure it lists any professional licenses you own. Include your street address. Cards with nothing but your name, company name and an email don't present your business very professionally.

7.Get a company email address. Nothing turns off a major-corporate supply contact faster than hearing your elaborate presentation about your company's amazing abilities end with: "So please contact me at joebizowner@yahoo.com." Splurge on a professional email address that matches your company name.

Will you sell to big businesses this year? Leave a comment and let us know your goals.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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