"Small market" refers to the smallest of small businesses... micro enterprises, usually at or under $1 million per year in sales - but could be as high as $2-5 million. Mostly retail-oriented or small, private practice service providers.
Now there's nothing wrong with those companies at all. They're great businesses, and many are extremely savvy and profitable. But they are characterized by owner-operators who typically run the business out of a checkbook. They typically have little long-term planning, budgeting, etc...
I'm not trying to belittle these tiny businesses at all. They're the backbone of our economy, and ALL businesses started out as small enterprises. But small businesses that stay small do so for lots of reasons - many spelled out in the book E-Myth, by Michael Gerber.
The problem with selling to small markets is they're under-capitalized, fickle, want far more hand holding, and are ultimately the most competitive market space for other service providers looking to convert them to paying clients. This translates into downward pressure on price, limited ability to engage, and a higher demand for more services for the money.
Do you really want to compete in that space forever?
Well, maybe you do. Maybe you thrive on it. I know a lot of my Warrior Forum friends love that sort of deal.
There's nothing wrong with it!
I've done lots of business in the small market space - millions of dollars worth of direct marketing and online marketing campaigns actually.
But I really experienced a SIGNIFICANT jump in income when I started focusing on larger businesses. I would rather invest the time and effort into creating relationships with larger companies that have the money, the resources, and the longer-term planning ability (long term = STABLE REVENUE FOR ME).
The differences are numerous, but when it comes to actually making a sale to the bigger accounts, the number one selling difference is:
SELLING IS NOT AN EVENT, IT'S A PROCESS.
The patience required to manage a large account and navigate through the process is certainly a lot more than a lot of professionals are interested in exhibiting. Again, that's not a shortcoming - it's simply a difference.
So what does this process look like?
Well, it's a multiple step, series of "phases", where different kinds of activity happen to further along the prospective client towards a close.
There can be many steps involved, depending on the size and complexity of the organization, the kind of deal, etc... which brings us to another concept:
EVERY DEAL IS UNIQUE.
There literally is no such thing as a "template" or "script" that a lot of my contemporary small market friends rely upon for selling.
The sales professional becomes an entrepreneur all over again each time they're presented with a new client engagement opportunity. Presenting the benefits of a customized solution that fits the particular needs of a client literally becomes a business unit - in fact, in large consulting firms, a single large account can literally become a standalone "practice", where the sales rep becomes a sort of mini-CEO over the entire relationship.
While each deal is unique, and may have many steps to reach a contract, a lot of the activity falls into these phases or categories:
1. Generating the initial interest
This is, of course, lead generation. There's a lot of discussion about all the kinds of tactics involved in creating that interest - everything from cold calling, to event speaking, to social media. There's no "right" or "wrong" answer to any tactic - just effort and ROI. Some markets may respond better to a particular kind of tactic than others. Some kinds of services may be sold in a fashion more efficiently than another.
The interest generated could be extremely intense on the front end, which is where a lot of inexperienced professionals may fall short in the large sale process. They assume that because an individual might express a lot of interest right off the bat, that the prospect is ready to close. Even the owner of the company might be super excited, and after all, they're the ultimate decisionmaker. Right?
Except for one thing - larger organizations involve many people in making decisions. Even the owner or CEO who expresses interest will almost always hand off the project to a lieutenant or some evaluation committee to recommend a decision. Yes, getting the CEO excited is a surefire way to fast track a deal. But I've seen it time and again where the newbie sales pro starts reaching for the deal signing pen, and the CEO tosses them over to a manager. This usually leaves the inexperienced seller dejected, deflated, and uninterested in following through with a longer process because they were emotionally invested in the idea of a fast close.
2. Initial Follow Up
This phase follows the initial interest expressed by a prospect. The follow-up is to do a whole bunch of things like qualify the prospect further as a real candidate for your services, figuring out what the decisionmaking process is within the company to help map a gameplan, etc...
This is the phase to help determine whether or not there's a good match for each party in the relationship. This is a two way street here. A sales pro should be attempting to evaluate the relationship as much as the prospect. A novice might get enamored with the idea of landing a big whale of an account, but fall short because they were blinded to all kinds of trouble spots that could develop into disagreements and tension down the road.
There may be multiple follow-up activities that take place before actually getting into the the door for an initial meeting or presentation. It could require phone conversations, sending marketing materials, demos, etc... and actually require coordinating multiple people and schedules to get to a presentation.
3. The Initial Presentation
This is ultimately the goal of the last phase. This is the sales meeting, or meetings, that have a single purpose - convincing a prospect to sign a contract with you - or "closing the deal".
This could be a single meeting, or actually involve many steps again, such as an initial presentation, an analysis or needs assessment, a demo, etc... It could also involve just a single meeting with a single person - but more likely it will be a series of engagements with multiple constituents that may be affected by the decision to secure your services.
For example, there may be an operations manager, an accounting person, a customer service representative, etc... who are all affected in different ways by the services that you provide - and the promised outcome of that service (increased sales, more customers, etc...). Being able to relate to the individual perspectives is very important here - and requires an understanding of a business operation beyond just the narrow view of your own area of expertise.
The operations manager isn't just thinking about getting more visits to the website. They're thinking about how many additional staff members will be required to support the influx of new business. Being able to translate the outcomes of the services provided into the worldview of each constituent will further help a consultant move the deal towards a close.
Failing to secure the support of the influencers of the decision-maker will be one of the biggest failings of the inexperienced professional. This could be anything from failing to address the needs of the client, failing to articulate the benefits in a manner that is understood and accepted, and so on. Most deals are made or broken in this phase.
Of course, the ultimate goal of this phase is landing the deal, getting the assignment, closing the sale, whatever you want to call the act of getting a signed commitment by an authorized decisionmaker.
4. Closing The Deal
This involves securing a signed agreement, purchase order, or contract, which invariably means negotiating. This is another phase where a lot of different kinds of activity goes on. This is also a killer phase where a lot of hard work goes down the tubes at the last minute - which is always a real crusher because it got so far, only to be sunk 100 feet before the finish line.
That's why it's important to "dot your i's and cross your t's" in every step to this point. Deals can unravel quickly - literally in minutes.
Having everything in order to move towards a close involves a lot of mutual understanding, give and take, and clear articulation and acceptance of the expectations of each party. If you require a deposit, don't spring it on them buried somewhere in some article 26-D of the contract. The closing phase is NOT the place for surprises.
5. Keeping The Deal
This is, of course, paramount. This means that you are actually delivering based on the expectations that were established. Contracts can be cancelled and consultants invited into the street - so that means the deal isn't really done until the job has been fully completed and accepted by the client to their satisfaction.
THE CONTRACT IS THE ULTIMATE GUIDEPOST!
This is why I cringe when I see shoddy work being performed with no contract. That contract is your saving grace when a question arises about the work being performed. If it isn't covered in the contract, you are flapping in the breeze. You're a clay pigeon, sailing through the air, waiting for the shotgun pellets to blast you apart.
However, when the contract is completed according to expectations, everyone is paid in full and happy, a bigger company usually results in a lot more future business, lots of referral opportunities, heavyweight testimonials, and other career-skyrocketing things that everyone needs to do the next deal, and the next one, and the next one.
Okay, that should be plenty to get your gears turning.
Don't be afraid of a big deal. Just be sure to have your act together, and understand that it's a PROCESS, not an EVENT.
Now go find a $50,000 contract.