How do you position yourself to become one of the “fortunate” professionals who consistently get corporate clients and build lucrative businesses through B2B selling? Over three parts, I’m sharing how to find, engage and win contracts selling into organizations.
Today, I’m going to be taking you through six steps to get corporate clients with B2B selling, even if you just started your own business. It’s a process that has served my business very well.
And if you’re already up and running, imagine if you could make the five figures in revenue you brought in last year — and double or triple it by landing just one big gig.
I’m sharing 6 steps to get corporate clients, because most consultants, coaches and experts go about B2B sales all wrong or they miss vital steps.
These six steps are the exact process I use in the B2B side of my business – and that I share with my 1:1 clients, which has served us very well. It’s proven route to successfully win those lucrative corporate clients or other organisational contracts – even if you’re just starting out of the gate.
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And before I forget, I have a great little free resource at the end that you can download and use as a checklist to keep you on the straight and narrow path to success!
If you’re a consultant, coach, expert, trainer or other service provider who wants to sell their programs, products or services to organizations rather than individuals, this episode is going to serve you very well.
I’m really pumped to talk about this process today, because it can feel like a huge uphill battle to land your first corporate gig, especially if you’ve been knocking on closed doors, getting the run-around or even getting ghosted!
In order to win your first official B2B client, believe it or not you don’t need a marketing or advertising budget, and you don’t need an online funnel. The way I teach people to get corporate clients does not require list building or buying appointments.
What you’ll learn as I go through these steps are:
How to do your market research and due diligence
How to craft your offer around their specific needs and challenges
The easiest programs and services to offer (especially starting out)
What things you worry about that you don’t need to worry about
How to price your programs so you start as you mean to go on
How to prove you can deliver even if this is your first client
The most crucial first step to do at this time.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it…
I’m going to start by setting out the landscape of what we often call B2B – business-to-business, but often isn’t actually B2B. Or rather it isn’t giving you the benefits of B2B and just involves you in a LOT more work for not much gain. And then we’ll dive into the six steps – actually there’s a 7th dimension that I’ll mention at the end, but it’s not a focus for now, and it’s a whole topic in itself.
What is B2B selling (and what is not!)
B2B selling, also known as business-to-business sales or selling into organizations, refers to companies or businesses that primarily sell products and services to other businesses rather than direct to consumers (B2C). B2B sales typically have higher order values, longer sales cycles and are often more convoluted than B2C sales.
I’m not going to lie, B2B selling to get corporate clients is tricky. You have to understand the territory and look at selling into organizations for what it is: a high-stakes game that requires an entirely unique approach to that of direct-to-consumer marketing and enrolling individual clients in your service or program directly.
When you set up your consulting business, or coaching practice or other expert service, you start by deciding on your niche – what you do, who you do it for, why you do it. So, you will likely focus on the people you work with directly, the beneficiaries of your program or training or service. Because that’s your genius zone, your expertise, and those are the people you really love to help.
And it’s probably your passion too, it’s why you do what you do – often as not anyhow, your expertise is what you bring to the individuals who participate directly or work with you directly.
But unless those individuals are business owners themselves, if they’re employees – staff – then they tend not to be the ones paying your fee, their organization will be the buyer.
If you want to get corporate clients, your prospect is not the participant, it’s their employer, the organization.
This is scenario one. Employees generally expect their employer to pay for any training or continuing professional development (CPD) they do. So, if you’re marketing to them directly, they may love what you do and want in, but they probably won’t whip out their credit card to book and pay. Selling direct to the consumer – B2C – in this situation is not a good business strategy.
Scenario two is where you help the individual make the case to their manager or HR about why they need this training and how much it costs. Either way, they become the sales person or the lobbyist. The more you can help the better, but you’re on the periphery.
What may happen is they go to their manager or HR to request the training from a departmental or central budget. And unless it can be paid from discretionary funds and doesn’t require a whole set of hoops to jump through, you may get lucky.
It’s not typically something that’s done on the fly unless it’s on their PDP – personal development plan. And again, that’s usually something that’s reviewed as part of performance review every year.
There are exceptions, of course, especially if the individual doesn’t want to put their hand up to their boss that they want or need your training or coaching. But 90% of the time, they won’t be the buyer. The organization is the buyer.
But still, that doesn’t mean you’re in true B2B territory.
A way to capitalize on the individual’s interest (or also if they’ve already taken your program or used your service) is to ask them to connect you to their manager or decision maker so you can have a conversation about how you can support more of their staff with this need.
In this scenario, assuming a door is opened, an introduction is made. Now you’re in B2B territory where you can potentially have that organization become your client and build a proposal for a regular contract with them.
When an organization books you for a contract not just pays for one or a few people to work with you or do your training, this is true B2B and makes the whole hoop-jumping worthwhile.
The upshot for both scenarios, and it can be a hefty challenge for everyone selling into organizations, is that there’s often a whole annual process and budgeting cycle and for bigger contracts a whole procurement procedures organizations have to follow, which spins around their purchasing decisions. It adds a whole other dimension to both your market research and your process.
If you can dig into how that budgeting cycle and procurement process works within the particular types of organizations you want to contract with, you’re more likely to get your timing right!
The six steps are all mutually reinforcing, each underpins and strengthens the next stage and not skipping a step ensures you will streamline your efforts and have a greater chance of success. The six steps all begin with a P, so hopefully it’s easy to remember!
#5 Presentations (or pitches)
#6 Persistence (and follow up).
Next week in part 2, I’ll be saying more about the order of play and the mistake most consultants make starting in the middle, jumping into steps 3 or 4 and even 5 without the necessary prep work. Today, I’m going to go through that prep work and focus on positioning yourself for success. There’s another dimension that runs across all six stages, which helps you go after bigger contracts, and I’ll mention it in part 3.
Step #1 is Positioning and Step #2 is Pipeline.
Step 1 is Positioning
– by this I mean how you can authentically differentiate yourself and STAND OUT when there are so many more coaches, consultants, trainers, speakers, professional services providers, and experts in the marketplace than ever before!?
Sounds obvious but the hardest proposals are the ones where you have to do a load of research and work out the solution. Unless you’re intentionally trying to get a share of new market, and are testing the waters and don’t need the business …only go after opportunities where writing a proposal fits very closely with what you already do for your existing clients – it’s in your wheelhouse, and you’d be working in your genius zone.
POSITIONING – is all about aligning what you do with who you serve – your ideal client avatar and what you do for them (the organizational avatar, not just the people who participate in the program or service you’re selling).
Know who your perfect clients are. That way you can you get more of them. Perfect clients reveal your genius and leadership to you. Your best-fit clients will resonate with your position and values, because it’s something that really matters to them.
But there is an ultimate AUTHENTIC competitive differentiator that your competitors can never buy. And that’s your CLIENT LIST!!
Your client list is what gives you credibility, insights, thought leadership, proof you deliver, predictable results, and real leverage …in the eyes of B2B decision makers.
After all, your rivals will never be able to claim that they worked on the same projects and programmes, with the same wonderful list of clients that YOU did, or that they produced the same client outcomes and case studies.
It’s unlikely your competitors will have the exact same blend of clientele that you have worked with. Now, if you’re being strategic about who you decide to work with, and you’re able to reapply lessons learned from both similar and not so similar organizations, you’re contributing insights in a very unique way.
When you think about your positioning in this way – through the eyes of your ideal corporate clients you want to get, it really helps with all the other steps – and the next one follows on very logically from here – it’s all about who you want to get into your pipeline.
In my book, we dive in deeper into business design that enables the major leverage points in your brand, marketing, sales and delivery. find out more in The Book section.
Available from Amazon in paperback, hardback, kindle and audiobook.
Step #2 Pipeline
You want to start building your pipeline by listing the target organizations you want to get as a corporate client. Who do you know in those companies or who may know people. LinkedIn is a great place to do some snooping to identify people who can go on your list.
You won’t be reaching out or making connections with anyone yet. At this stage, you’re just gathering information and you’ll refine your list to those you will approach, once you actually have a list. Don’t go after one at a time, doing it this way means you can be more intentional and strategic about how you build relationships.
On that subject, go back to my podcast episode 3, an interview I did with Andy Lopata which was all about making connections and leveraging professional relationships.
PIPELINE development – is all about targeting and prioritizing, and managing what happens with each of those contacts. You can use Linkedin or just google search to find target companies, you decide on the companies that fit your industry, niche, location, type, size and other demographics, and you can do your research on their website, or LinkedIn again to find the specific roles or levels within the company that make the most sense for you to talk with initially.
You can create a pipeline using a simple spreadsheet. Here’s how:
- In column 1 you have the organization and column 2 the contact name
- 3rd column you can give a score 1-5 for how ideal a fit they are for what you do and who you want to work with
- In the 4th column you give each one a score 1-5 for the strength of the relationship
- In the 5th column you can rate how ‘warm’ you think that prospect is, again rank them 1-5
- Then in the next column, you can add a formula to multiply the score in columns 3,4 and 5 and then sort the table based on overall highest score.
It’s pretty neat and super simple. Now you have a pipeline that prioritises your hottest prospects and puts them at the top.
Once you have your list ordered, consistently engage and interact with people in those organizations and roles.
If you have a specific contact, reach out with a personal email and find the common ground. If it makes sense, invite them to a zoom chat to have exploratory conversations and see what you can learn. Don’t try to sell them on first contact.
Right so I’ll stop here so this doesn’t get too long, and in the next article, we’ll continue on with the next two steps to get corporate clients this six step B2B selling process – prospecting and proposals.