Category Archives: Client relationships

The pathway to better enterprise relationships

Enterprise companies can be tremendously rewarding to work with but they certainly have their challenges. With long sales cycles, lots of complexity and lots of politics, they often offer consultants and vendors opportunities to increase business value at an awesome scale. Over the years working with at least 20 Fortune 500 enterprise clients, I’ve gathered a few best practices that have helped me be successful both in North America and overseas. This is by no means an exhaustive list – I’d love to hear what’s been successful for you – but here are some general principles that continue to help me be successful with these types of clients.

One contact is never enough – Just one contact at an enterprise will never be enough to make a sale or keep a client. Know everyone that you can, understand the business from their perspective and listen to what’s important to each one of them. If you can ensure your service or solution will make all of your contacts successful in some way, you’re onto a winner.

 Be there to help – Yes, everyone has targets and quotas but if you’re thinking about your money, you’re not thinking about your client’s success. Concentrate on how you’ll be helping them and the money will come.

Be responsive – people in large companies are used to stakeholders who take weeks to get back to them and projects that take forever to get off the ground. If you’re getting back to them in hours, they’ll be surprised and grateful that you’re addressing their questions quickly.

IT is not the enemy – IT departments in large companies have lots of headaches. Dealing with technology projects that are not a part of their remit and yet another vendor who doesn’t listen or understand their position is just one more problem for them. Get to know the IT team and help them understand you’re here to help.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate – Big companies know that there is no free lunch. If your product or service has value, demonstrate that value and have a conversation with your client. Don’t feel like you always have to fold on price without a murmur. You may have to give discounts in some instances but it’s always better to at least talk about it first.

Work towards alignment as well as signatures – the person who signs your deal may not be the person who benefits most from your solution or even the one who fully understands your value proposition. Pay attention to what makes each stakeholder successful and find a way to bring these objectives together. It’s a bit like creating a bill that can be passed into law – addressing the needs of special interest groups can make the whole thing more palatable and possible to get done.

If you work for an enterprise, I’m especially interested to know what you think of this list and how you’d improve it!california-pathway

Milk the cow when it’s in the barn!

Some years ago I worked for a friend of mine at his hotel in Austria. At that time they were only open during the summer holiday season as this was when they had most of their visitors. After the first week or so I asked him when I would be taking a day off.

“Day off?” he said, “But what would you do?”

I said well, relax, go for a swim, rest, that sort of thing.

He looked at me like I’d suddenly lost my mind and said,

“If I’m a farmer and I have to milk my cows, do I run around the field trying to milk them? That’s so much more work than milking them when they’re in the barn. This is what we’re doing here – we’re milking the cows when they’re in the barn.”

I didn’t have a day off for about 4 months.

While I don’t by any stretch of the imagination think of my clients today as cows, the metaphor still works. Working with those clients you have is much less effort than frantically chasing the clients you might be able to catch in the field.