How to Prospect for Larger Clients

John Tabita
John Tabita

As we prepared to launch new web marketing services, our company was in need of a particular solution to a piece of that puzzle. For several weeks, we agonized over whether to develop it in-house or seek a third-party solution—if one even existed.

Out of the blue, we received an email from a company who provided the exact solution we’d been needing. After seeing a demo of its features and capabilities, the uncanny feeling crept over me that they’d been reading our minds. Turns out, that wasn’t the case.

Targeted marketing, not telepathy, was the reason the email hit home. One of the firm’s co-founders had connected with our company Vice President on LinkedIn, because he knew exactly what type of company his product served—and we fit the profile.

In last week’s article, How to Land Your First Big Client, I said that having a goal to land larger clients is pointless unless you have a clear picture in your mind (and on paper) what that client looks like. This will be important for what I’m going to say next.

Targeting Niche or Vertical Markets to Land Bigger Client

If you’ve followed my previous writings, then you know I strongly advocate cold-calling as a means to develop new business. And while I believe that you can use cold-calling to prospect for larger clients, it isn’t necessarily my first choice—unless you sell to a highly-targeted niche or vertical, that is.

The reason I think that cold-calling can be less effective for prospecting large clients is because of the commoditization of web design and marketing. Before phoning ABC MegaCorp to offer your SEO services, you’d better know what sets you apart from the hundreds of “we’ll get you on the first page of Google” phone calls and emails they get every week. And be prepared to convey that message in 40 seconds or less.

That said, cold-calling is very effective when you specialize in a niche or vertical market and provide a unique value proposition to that industry.

Let’s say you’re an expert in providing search marketing solutions to assisted living facilities. You belong to their industry associations, attend their conferences and seminars, and contribute articles to their newsletter. You have unique insight into the particular marketing challenges they face.

That expertise, along with a targeted script, will give you near-instant credibly with most of the prospects you cold-call—because now you’re no longer a commodity, but someone who provides a specific solution to a particular industry.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

In 1980, Mary Maxwell Gates was appointed to the board of directors of the national United Way. Also serving on the board was IBM Chairman John Opel. In October of that same year, IBM decided to develop its own PC to compete with the Apple II and needed an operating system. After negotiations broke down with Digital Research to license their CP/M operating system, IBM awarded the contract to a fledgling company called Micro-Soft, founded by Mary Gates’ son, Bill. Coincidence? I think not.

Microsoft, as it was later renamed, had originally been founded to develop a programming language for the Altair 8800 microcomputer. At the time of the IBM deal, it didn’t even have an operating system to sell. Hence the power of a professional network. For better or for worse, it’s human nature that we prefer to do business with those we already know, like, and trust.

If you want to reach the corporate client, consider this. Like most of us, executive decision-makers don’t want to buy from a salesperson. In your heart of hearts, you know this to be true—that’s why you take great pains not to come across like one. But neither do they want to buy from “a web designer” or “a programmer.” Who do they feel most comfortable purchasing from? Someone like themselves, of course. A businessperson.

A businessperson is someone who can transcend the product or service to reach a higher ground—the ability to understand, articulate, and drive the contribution their business can make to the client’s business. – Dave Stein, How Winners Sell

Most successful business people have a well-developed professional network. That’s because it’s a prerequisite to landing larger clients. If your Rolodex … excuse me, I meant your iPhone Contacts app … is lacking, it’s time to consider building yourself a solid network. You must do more than think like a businessperson. You must become one.

Next week in my Landing Larger Clients series: Network Your Way to “Business Person” Status.

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