Think big but start small
When seeking to win a new client, the temptation in sales is to try and make the sale as big as possible, especially when selling to larger companies. The problem is that when you make your first sale you are not tried, tested, and trusted and this really matters when you are selling technical services. Being recommended by a trusted contact helps…..but in my experience being patient and playing a longer game really pays off.
When it comes to the crunch, the fear of taking risks means that unless you are working for a major consulting brand or you have proven specialist experience you will probably be in a weak competitive position. With a bigger sale you are unlikely to be the only person they are speaking to. Yet once you are tried, tested, and trusted then winning large projects against major brands will be much easier and often projects will be awarded without having to compete at all!
I remember in my IT consulting days helped a major police force to write a bid document knowing that it was our project to lose. The other companies competing did not really stand much chance of winning. If you are bidding for large projects you should be wondering who is helping them write the request for proposal – it is probably a competitor who is already tried, tested, and trusted.
Let’s look at it from your prospect’s perspective. Imagine you have a very important delivery to make. It absolutely has to arrive on time or there will be serious consequences. You can use your usual supplier, who has never let you down but is very expensive, or a local company you have been introduced to who look very impressive and are significantly cheaper. You want to start saving money, but the time to test a new company out is not when it really matters. You would probably give them some smaller jobs first to see how reliable they are before trusting them with a career defining assignment. The same happens with technical services. A potential client will want to test you out before handing over a very large project. So my recommendation is to make it easy for them to do so by always starting off with a small sale.
Primary sale, subsequent sale
Not only should the first sale be relatively small, it should be addressing an unresolved problem that your prospective client has. Trying to compete by offering the same services as your competitors is hard work. If they have already worked with a competitor then there is the risk that after all your hard work getting them interested they will end up buying the service from them. If you are focusing on winning your first small sale in a specialist area there is less chance they will bother asking your competitors. However, once you have successfully delivered your first project, you now have a bridgehead to start winning more work, even though the client might have a working relationship with a competitor.