Landing a Fortune 500 client changes everything. And once you land the first, the next one isn't far off.
When Accusoft first started, we grew much like any other company - slowly and steadily, landing one small client after another. While we were paying the bills and staying in the black, we knew that we just weren't going to be satisfied with our growth until we did one thing - succeeded with the Fortune 500.
Here's how we did it and what you should know before you try to catch that first big fish.
Find a niche
If you're an unknown, it's going to be hard to win a big account. You have to stand out and do something they really need and can't find anywhere else. If your product is going up against a larger, well-established competitor, it's going to be really tough to break that egg.
Instead, identify differentiators between you and your competitors and make it so your potential client has no other choice than to go with you - the unknown. Once you've done that, you can start thinking about leaving the pond and heading to the sea to land the big fish.
Different tune, same old song
The biggest difference between dealing with a Fortune 500 and that company down the street is going to be the sales process. First, and most obviously, you're going to have to pursue them instead of waiting for them to come to you. You have to be proactive and it isn't as easy as calling the main phone number or walking in the front door. Sometimes, you'll have to make a dozen or more calls or emails just to find your way to the primary decision-maker. These companies have regional headquarters and various teams for different operations and you'll need to find just the right person, in the right location and on the right team, to make that first contact.
Beware the price point
Say you've found the right person: They're interested in your unique offering, and now you're negotiating. When you're trying to land a big customer, the temptation is strong to slash your prices just to get them on board. While it can be done - if you're a SaaS (News - Alert) provider, for example, and have low overhead costs - you have to be careful.
I'm not going to advise you to do it or not, but beware you don't lose your hat on the deal. There are hidden costs with a big client that you likely haven't run into before. The bigger the client, the bigger the budget you'll likely have to allocate to support them. You have to understand your costs. For example, when we won a large client, we had to start providing 24/7 support. This meant extra hiring and infrastructure costs that we hadn't anticipated when slashing prices to land the deal.
Your safest bet is to find the people that have a really bad headache and sell them your aspirin. There's no reason to worry about price: they'll pay.
Negotiating a favorable contract
When you get to the contract part of the transaction, you're in the clear, right?
Not so much.
That two-pager you've used with every other client isn't going to cut it with a Boeing (News - Alert), Yahoo! or EMC. I'll be honest - dealing with the contract can be a long and miserable process. While small companies will gladly use your contract as-is, big ones will use their own, and the process can take weeks, if not longer, to finalize.
When dealing with the contract, run it past your lawyers to ensure everything is clear and that you're not getting roped into something you can't handle. (Remember those increased costs we talked about earlier? Here they are again.) This is also where you might want to negotiate on some points. For example, within the contract you'll want to stipulate that the Fortune 500 company doesn't limit your ability to use them as a reference. You'll likely want to be able to quote them in press releases and create case studies for your sales teams. Anything else you can think of, now is the time to ask, because this will dictate the relationship moving forward.
Reeling it in
Follow all of this, net that first big fish, and you should be well on your way to winning with the Fortune 500. That first win shows that you know what you're dealing with and how to handle the ins and outs of big deals, making you more attractive to the next one down the line. It also shows that you have the procedures in place to offer the kind of support and care that Fortune 500 companies not only look for, but require.
While these big deals take a greater level of commitment and cost on your end, they are also the deals that can give you a sustainable profit base moving forward and the capital to build the company you've always dreamed of building.
First steps first, though - leave that small pond and go cast your line in the deep sea of the Fortune 500.
About Jack Berlin
Jack Berlin is the CEO of Accusoft. Accusoft products work reliably behind the scenes for capturing, processing, storing and viewing images, documents and more. Follow Jack on Twitter (News - Alert): @Accusoft