Fortune 500 companies are a class of their own. They are highly profitable, respected businesses that only partner with the best of the best. They can bring visibility to your brand and have the potential to be long-term partners, not to mention offer the possibility of a larger-than-average deal size. So if you want to sell into one of these companies, you’d better bring your A game — and then some.
Selling to a Fortune 500 company requires more than an amplified version of your company’s standard sales pitch. But even if Fortune 500 companies aren’t your typical customers, you can still form a meaningful, mutually profitable relationship with one. You’ll just need detailed company research, a revised strategy, and nuanced tactics to execute the deal.
To successfully sell to Fortune 500 companies, pay special attention to the following five key areas where you’ll need to adjust your typical selling strategy and expectations.
1) Target Identification
When selling into smaller businesses, you can usually target a particular role as your point of contact. For example, the vice presidents of marketing at small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have similar responsibilities to one another.
But titles at Fortune 500 companies aren’t always consistent with those at SMBs, or across other Fortune 500s. The vice president of marketing at one Fortune 500 could have a completely different role than her counterpart at another.
You must identify not only the correct contact at each corporation, but also who has true decision-making abilities. Spend time checking LinkedIn profiles and websites to discern the best two or three people to contact, and start with them. If you end up getting in contact with the wrong person, but they’re open to a conversation, use them as a resource and advocate to get connected to the right person.
2) Decision-Making Process
Getting a “yes” from the key decision maker at an SMB usually means you have a deal. At Fortune 500s, however, the people you pitch to likely need approval from the C-suite, the board, or other departments before pulling the trigger on a sale.
Verse yourself in what it takes to become an approved vendor and how to successfully execute agreements with brands’ legal departments at Fortune 500 companies. Many deals die at the contract stage due to a lack of patience or unclear terms. By educating yourself, you’ll save time and close more sales.
3) Sales Cycle
Selling into Fortune 500 companies is a long, strenuous process that can last twice as long (or more) than your typical sales process. In an SMB, you often work with just one person or a small team to close a deal. But because the Fortune 500 decision-making process includes more stakeholders, the time it takes to negotiate and close a deal with one will take you much longer. Your ability to navigate and stay focused is that much more important, so forecast extra time for negotiations and for the purchase to be processed.
Spend time refining your content nurturing process for brands. Content serves a dual purpose: to educate, and to move prospects down your sales funnel to the point where they’re deciding — on their own — to use your product or service. This is especially important for Fortune 500 companies. Make sure you have reasons to reach out, and double down on providing useful resources.
4) Immediate Value
The potential profit and benefits of partnering with a Fortune 500 company mean that the stakes of your pitch are very high, especially because these companies hear pitches from vendors every day. So even if you have a truly unique product or service, standing out is crucial if you want to reach influential decision makers.
One way to separate yourself from the crowd is to provide immediate value. We’ve found that when our sales team reaches out to large companies, the best ways to show value and prove our credibility are to either help them out in some way (by providing an introduction or some advice), or to show results we’ve achieved for other companies and demonstrate how those results relate to our prospect.
Due to our network and publication relationships, we’re able to connect influencers with organizations in their industries. For example, Gina McDuffie, chief marketing officer at VER (formerly at GES), was looking for great organizations to join, so my team connected her to the incredible community at The CMO Club. She went to the first event and loved it. Soon after, GES became a client of ours and has been wonderful to work with. Helping other prospects in ways like this has helped us gain trust early on because it shows we truly care about being a resource to companies.
If you’re not able to prove yourself early on and start painting a picture of how Fortune 500 companies can take advantage of your product or services, you won’t get a chance to compete in the long sales process. Identify content you can provide that shows your ability to help companies like theirs.
Another way to differentiate your company is to showcase a history of success. While SMBs may be more willing to take a chance on a company with a less-established track record, Fortune 500s want to be absolutely certain you’re worth their investment. Use a custom analytics template to collect data and leverage case studies, testimonials, good press coverage, and a quality website. The more evidence you have to prove your credibility, the better your chances are for a conversion and shorter sales cycle.
Effective branding and public relations are important throughout the entire sales process, but these elements are particularly useful when building credibility. Consistent, positive press signals to other companies that you’re well established and thriving financially. Frequently published and relevant content engages your target prospects before you even sit for a pitch meeting.
Fortune 500s can be tough sells, but landing just one account could transform your business. Understanding the differences between pitching a major brand and a smaller company is the first step toward nailing the sale and moving your own organization to the next level.