Many small business owners have developed a comfort level with the clients they serve. They've found the "goldilocks" position of "not too big; not too small."
But what if you could double your company by securing one new customer? Let's call this customer your whale.
Who are 5 potential customers you could court that if you won their business would double your business over the next 12-24 months?
Who are they currently buying from and how do you stack up relative to this other party?
How do you stack up on:
- Experience / track record?
Why do they buy from their existing vendor or supplier that you want to replace? What are their areas of dissatisfaction? What are the most important criteria that they use to make a buying decision? Who on their team is the decision maker? Who are the influencers?
As you can see, gathering this information will take an investment of time and effort. But once you have it, you can craft your strategy to get in the door.
Here are 4 strategies to land your new whale:
Strategy One: Come In Through the Side Door
Look at the list of influencers in the buying decision process for your potential whale. How can you build a relationship with one or more of the key influencers? Can you arrange to meet them at a trade show or industry gathering? Can you get someone in your LinkedIn world to introduce you? Can you reach out to them with something of great value, for example, a great idea to solve a tough challenge he or she is dealing with? Sometimes the easiest door to come into to land a whale is the side door your key influencer can open for you.
Strategy Two: Offer a Pilot Project on Extreme Terms
In essence this strategy says you are willing to put your company's product or service on the line through a pilot project where you prove your ability to add massive value to your prospective whale's world. Frame the pilot project offer as your way to earn the right to either take on some of their business, or to at the very least, to be their "Plan B" partner (see below.)
This strategy worked for Windswept Marketing, a specialty branded products company based in the southeastern USA . (Disclosure: They have also been a business coaching client for 5 years now). Initially when we first began working with them their average client purchased $4,000 to $6,000 worth of products each year. Then a just over 4 years ago they kicked of a pilot project for a key customer for a new product they created called "Indirect Embroidery" and that program lead to them landing hundreds of thousands in annual sales from Home Depot, the NFL, and other marque "whales." And it all started with a small pilot program that was a massive success.
Strategy Three: Ask to Be Their Plan B
Find the right person at your whale to ask permission to earn the right to be their "plan B". Say something like, "Mike, I know you've been using STR, Inc. for over 4 years now as your main vendor. I respect your loyalty to them. In fact, it's that very loyalty that has me so hungry to earn the right to be your plan b should anything ever happen in that relationship. I know that if you ever did shift to work with us that would be because you'd have reached a point that you just were no longer getting the value you'd expect from STR, am I right? Of course. May I ask you Mike, what do I need to do to earn the right to be your back up plan just in case?"
Of course, hearing them out you need to invest the energy to be their perfectly situated plan b. Over time your perseverance and contact will go a long way to giving you an opening to pounce on to win the business. When that opening comes, you just need to seize it.
Strategy 4: Find the Whale that No One Knows Is in the Market
Remember that boy or girl everyone assumed was going to prom so no one asked them to go, only to later find out that they stayed home? Well right now there is likely a whale in your world who would be a great customer, and to whom you could bring extraordinary value if only you reached out to them. From a practical standpoint, this is usually a whale who is doing what your product or service does in house or with an inferior indirect competitor.
For example, a company we've coached STS, a software company based in Arizona, serves hospital blood banks, selling validation tools that automate the testing of their tests. Most of their "whale" customers (large hospitals and hospital groups) were doing their own validation work internally as a manual process, or hiring an outside consultant to come in and manually validate. Both of these solutions (manually doing it themselves or hiring an outside consultant) were "indirect competitors". Well for the almost the same cost of one manual validation the hospital could get a software solution to do it faster and for almost the same price, with each subsequent automated validation being a huge net savings for the hospital. Over the past several years STS has grown rapidly landing multiple whales their competitors were overlooking because they assumed they were "going to the prom already."
So who are your potential whales? And which of the above strategies will be your best way of landing them?
If this theme of scaling your company resonates with you, may I encourage you to join me for an upcoming free web training I'm conducting on growing your company the right way--in a way that increases sales and profits, and increases its "Owner Independence Index". Click here to learn more and register.