Don't let big buyers turn your business into a doormat. Keep your eye out for these common threats.
Don't kid yourself. Executives from huge firms can be merciless when it comes to dealing with their smaller brethren. Here are the five most common ways that large buyers make life miserable for the smaller companies that sell to them:
Method #1: Turning You Into Free Labor. Many large companies are full of people to whom small vendors are a source of free labor. Suppose you're a corporate bureaucrat and you've been asked to write a detailed report on, say, problems in the supply chain. You could do all the effort yourself or... you could pretend that your company was planning on buy a supply chain solution and just get a vendor representative to write the report for you. A little bit of tail-end editing (to take out the product pitch) and, voila! job done and back to playing solitaire.
Method #2: Using You as a Competitive Straw Man. This is probably the most common abusive behavior. An executive at a large company has already decided to buy from another vendor. However, because he made the decision based upon prejudice or friendship, he needs to create the appearance of an impartial bidding process. He therefore sends you an RFP and asks you to provide a bid on the project. After spending dozens of hours writing a brilliant proposal, you discover that you never had a chance of getting the business anyway.
Method #3: Turning You Into a Political Pawn. While there is definite value in developing multiple contacts inside a large account, if you're not careful, you can find yourself getting pulled into meetings that don't move the sale forward. Instead, the executive is using your presence and expertise to create credibility and build political power. You essentially become part of that executive’s "posse" rather than somebody who is adding value recognized by the rest of company. Letting yourself be played this way can consume many hours of your valuable time.
Method #4: Getting You to Provide Free Entertainment. This one is so despicable that I wouldn't believe that it actually existed, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I used to work in the marketing group for a multi-billion dollar computer firm. One of the guys I worked with was newly divorced and looking for easy dates, so he put the call out for advertising firms to pitch new concepts. Since the ad firms always sent over at least one attractive female, he viewed these introductory meetings much as a starving man might view an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Method #5: Using You as a Punching Bag. Many large companies absolutely seethe with barely suppressed anger and resentment. Some executives consider sales reps, especially from small firms, as a safer target for a screaming fit than the people whom they’ll have to work with on a daily basis. These volcanoes figure that since you need the business, you'll put up with virtually any abuse. And, sad to say, many sales reps feel they have no option except to sit and take it.
Needless to say, you don't need to take any of this lying down. Keep reading this daily column, because I'll be providing step-by-step recipes for successfully thwarting each of these irritating behaviors.