How To Sell To Large Companies and Win Big Deals

Gaetano DiNardi
May 20, 2024

Selling to large companies is totally different to small organizations. Therefore, your sales strategy must be different too.

Selling to small businesses is often a direct route. There’s a single person in charge of buying that one thing you sell. On the other hand, selling to larger businesses involves multiple stakeholders, all with influence over the buying decision.

There are also things like budget controls, security audits, and technical decisions in play. And the scope of these can differ from business to business.

To learn how to sell to large companies, we must first discover how they operate.

Let’s dig in. 

How Do You Define a Large Business?

Large corporations typically include the following:

  • A larger workforce (thousands of employees)
  • A significant amount of revenue that gets allocated to different areas
  • Global scale with regional compliance and technicalities
  • Large pool of incumbent suppliers competing for attention and business
  • Greater access to capital and financial resources 

A result of the common makeup of a large company leads salespeople to fend against four key criteria:

  • Multiple stakeholders: Large companies can have complex decision-making processes involving multiple departments (finance, IT, operations) that all need to be convinced of the value proposition. In smaller businesses, the decision often rests with a single owner (founder, co-founder, CEO) or a small leadership team. 
  • Longer sales cycles: The approval process can be lengthy, with layers of approvals required. Large deals can take months, even years, compared to quick decisions in smaller businesses.
  • Sales resources: Selling to large companies requires a dedicated sales team with expertise in complex sales processes and enterprise-level solutions. Smaller deals often see one-to-one relationships, backed by an inbound marketing strategy.
  • Contract negotiation: Large companies have legal teams that will scrutinize contracts. Negotiating contracts can become a complex process.

Large Companies:

  • Multiple stakeholders
  • Longer sales cycles
  • Personalized sales resources
  • Contract negotiation
  • Access to capital and finances

Small Companies:

  • Single point of contact
  • Short sales cycle
  • Uses website material
  • List price; often bought online
  • May need to raise money

Common Challenges When Selling to Big Businesses

Difficult-to-Reach Prospects

Reaching the right decision-maker can be a complex process. Large companies often have gatekeepers who screen incoming calls and emails. 

Compared to phoning a small business and reaching the CEO on their personal number, expect the process to look more like this:

  • Request an appointment
  • Qualify why they might want to speak with you
  • Convince a receptionist you’re not a timewaster

When your details do get passed on, expect a long wait before you get a call back. While large companies may try to operate in a lean manner, you’re definitely not the only person fighting for a returned call.

Decision-Making by Committee

It’s not just your contact involved in the buying decision. In fact, the person you leave a message with may choose to get someone else to call you back.

Enterprise purchases usually involve multiple stakeholders from different departments. 

First, someone (likely technical) must confirm the need for your product. If they verify you can solve their pain, they need to communicate the repercussions of change. Once these are accepted, a business case must be made to try and secure a budget.

All these decisions take place behind closed doors and you may not be party to the conversations.

Unclear Budget Owners

Identifying the budget owner is a much bigger hurdle in large companies compared to smaller businesses. There’s no longer a single credit card holder.

Expect to come across decentralized budgets. This is when large companies have departmental budgets aside from the company’s overall expenditure pot. 

When multiple departments will get affected by the buying decision, this fragmentation can make it difficult to pinpoint who has the final say.

Also, be aware of the possibility of departmental influence. Even if one department has the allocated budget for your product/service, other departments may have power or significant influence over the decision.

Slow Decision-Making

Procurement managers can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

When there are established procurement processes in place, expect a longer sales cycle with multiple layers of approval. Each time you pass through an approval gate, expect further scrutiny and number crunching.

High Competition

The potential rewards of landing a big contract attract many competitors. Even when your contact says you’re the only person they’re talking with, expect at least one other salesperson to be vying for their business.

They may not actively be involved until the final hour, either. So this is something that can slip under the radar. But any large company will be expected to conduct due diligence. Part of this process must be analyzing competition.

At this stage (and every stage), it’s crucial to stand out with the right incentives and demonstrate a clear value proposition. There must be no doubt your solution is the right one.

Complex Requirements

The larger the business, the larger its list of requirements. The larger the list, the more complexity. 

Meeting the often-changing requirements of large businesses can add complexity to the sales process. Obtaining sign off of a complete requirements list is a must.

Risk Aversion

The more people in a company, the higher the risk one change can have on how people operate. 

When Webex added a new “big green button” to its meeting tool, it was assumed everyone would start pressing it to shortcut the process.

In reality, some companies told their users to avoid hitting the button until it had been fully tested. 

There was no negative impact to hitting the button in the end. It did, in fact, shortcut the process. However a large company isn’t willing to take that risk and will be hesitant to adopt new solutions.

If you’re an unproven vendor, building trust and showcasing successful case studies can be helpful. When it comes to roll out, expect lengthy proof of concepts and trials with small pockets of users.

How to Sell to a Big Company: 15 Best Practices

There are plenty of challenges when it comes to selling to larger companies, but the reward is high.

During your pre-sales process, active sales process, and when post-sales support kicks in, here are 15 best practices you can follow to ensure you’re doing everything to win the deal.

1. Conduct Proper Research

This stage is not optional. Skipping this phase is detrimental to everything that follows. 

Before you even think about making contact, research your target company, its industry, its challenges, pain points, and its decision-making process. 

You might find it useful to create a template for researching all targets and prospects. 

Bake this into the beginning of your sales development strategy and watch how the rest of your process falls into your hands.

The more you know, the better you can tailor your sales approach.

2. Know Who the Decision Makers Are

There’s a difference between the sales contact and people who actually make buying decisions. 

That’s not to say your contact isn’t important. Far from it.

However, identifying the key people involved in the purchase decision means you can plan for who to keep informed, keep on side, and keep updated of deal progress.

Think about creating a stakeholder matrix so you know who to send different updates to. This might include department heads, budget owners, technical specialists and even individual contributors. 

Each will need to be aware of various aspects of the sales process, but overloading them with every item could be counterproductive.

3. If Possible, Get a Referral

When you start the sales process with a referral from someone within the company, you skip the cold-calling phase and get a foot in the door.

Referrals can open doors and give you instant credibility. This makes another pre-sale step vital to preparing your approach to a large company.

Leverage your network to see if you know anyone who can introduce you. As a minimum, filter your LinkedIn contacts to see if there’s a natural introduction.

Even when you can’t find a genuine referral, look for common interests. If you recently attended the same trade show, if you both follow a specialist publication, or if you have completed the same course, these can be better conversation starters than cold outreach.

4. Look the Part

When selling to large companies, professionalism matters. You wouldn’t walk into the board room of a 10,000-person company with your shirt hanging out and your hair untidy. 

Make sure your online presence reflects this too. 

Note: This goes deeper than your company’s website. Ensure your social media is polished and reflects your expertise. You want to position yourself as an expert in the field you’re dealing with, rather than a salesperson for any old business.

As table stakes, make sure you have a completed LinkedIn profile, a professional email address and email signature, and your personal social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is either private or doesn’t include anything you wouldn’t want an employer to find.

This also includes things like displaying your caller ID. When it’s literally someone’s job to filter calls, a call without an ID will likely get filtered straight to the no-call list. You must give the impression of an established business with nothing to hide. Welcoming callbacks is also a great habit to get into.

5. Have a Strong Brand

When you start using your online presence as a sales tool, you can start to form a personal brand.

In conjunction with your own business’ brand, you can create a great impression of both being an expert in a niche and working for a company that serves their industry.

Why does branding matter?

Big companies are more likely to trust established brands. There’s less deemed risk in choosing a company like Microsoft or Apple than a startup with no customers on its home page. 

This doesn’t automatically make it the right decision, but it is the power of brand.

Invest in building a strong brand image that conveys competence and reliability. Work with your marketing team so you have the following to hand: 

  • Case studies and testimonials: Showcase successful implementations of your product or service with similar large companies. Client testimonials add social proof and build trust.
  • Industry recognition: Highlight any industry awards or recognition your company has received. This demonstrates expertise and credibility.
  • Security and compliance credentials: For large companies, data security and regulatory compliance are paramount. Clearly communicate your security measures and how your product or service adheres to relevant regulations.
  • Niche expertise: Personalize your outbound emails and InMails to show expertise in specific industries. Namedrop not only large customers, but those relevant to each individual target.

6. Follow Up with Your Prospects (Even if They Don’t Reply)

They say persistence is key. But only if you adopt a methodical approach.

Do follow up with potential customers consistently. But avoid being overly aggressive.

If an email chain has gone cold, try liking and making meaningful comments on their social media posts. The more you show up, the more you’re top of mind. 

While it may feel like you’re shouting into the void and everyone is ignoring you, it will pay dividends to provide quality over quantity.

Big sales take time. Invest in laying the appropriate foundations before approaching your decision maker. Pitching too early could scupper the entire deal. Make building a relationship your priority instead of overloading a prospect with information.

7. Develop Relationships with Multiple People (Starting from the Bottom)

Sales in large companies often involve multiple stakeholders. While you can’t invest time into getting to know everyone, developing relationships not just with top decision-makers, but also with people in relevant departments who can influence the process is a smart move to gain buy-in.

When it’s obvious that other people in a business have trust in you, it’s like gaining a referral. You have champions embedded in different areas of a business and can lean on them to back you.

If you have the procurement manager, department head, and IT director all on-side, it paints a powerful picture when it comes to CFO sign-off.

8. Don’t Forget to Nurture Existing Relationships

Building relationships is an ongoing process. When it comes to deal closure, you can bet the people you made friends with one day will have a say.

Maintain contact with the stakeholders who helped you along the way. Your goal is to become known and (preferably) liked by all the people who can impact decision-making.

If you use and abuse these relationships, like taking a contact to a sports game and then never responding to their emails, your original good work will be for nothing.

Keeping everyone on side can be hard work. But it pays off at the most important time.

9. Track Sales Trigger Events

A sales trigger event is when a big company might need to re-evaluate its needs or priorities. When this happens (or preferably is about to happen), it’s important to have your finger on the pulse.

When you get the word or the sense that something like a merger or leadership change is about to happen, it could be exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

If something major has happened in your industry, it might be time to send out an outreach email, conduct independent research, or make a special offer. 

If a new challenge becomes clear, showing up with a solution at the right time can lead to more receptive buyers.

This does mean staying up to date not just with your prospect but with the things they must stay in the loop with. As well as following your contacts on social media. To do this, use sales intelligence tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, or simpler solutions like Google Alerts, and BuzzSumo to track relevant trigger events for your target companies.

10. Be Patient

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. 

Sales cycles for large companies can be lengthy. That’s not just for you but for everyone involved in the process. 

In enterprise deals, be prepared for the sales cycle to take anywhere between 12 - 24 months. 

Why so long?

It all comes back to the element of risk. They will need to do their research and will dig deep into your past records and your finances to make sure they’re making the right decisions.

Technical and security audits are commonplace in businesses with established technology and processes. One small intricacy could have serious knock on effects.

You need to respect these, even when you think they’re a waste of time. 

Rushing to the pitch will put people off, damage your relationship, and hurt your chances of closing the sale.

11. Prepare a Great Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a concise and compelling summary of your product or service, typically delivered within a short timeframe (the time it takes for an elevator ride). 

It's different from a sales pitch as it focuses on sparking interest and creating a conversation, rather than closing a deal. 

When you only have a set amount of time with a contact, you must be able to convey the problem you solve, your target audience, and the unique value proposition you offer. And all before your contact reaches the floor they’re heading to (they’re in an elevator, remember).

Include the following when creating your elevator pitch:

  • Introduce the pain you’re attempting to remedy
  • Explain the problem you solve
  • Who your target audience is
  • Expand on why you do it best
  • A reason to continue the conversation elsewhere

12. Personalize Your Pitch to Each Group You Meet With

It’s one thing to have a stock elevator pitch; it’s another to make it effective with different people.

Generic pitches are unlikely to resonate. This means you need to tailor your message to address the specific needs and priorities of each group you meet with. For example, a technical stakeholder like the IT director is unlikely to be convinced if you use the same pitch as the CFO, who is tasked with making the company save as much money as possible.

Research the different departments before you meet them to understand their challenges and responsibilities. Highlight how your solution directly benefits their area of focus, rather than the business as a whole.

You should end up with multiple elevator pitches based on department type. This might sound like hard work up front, but each will be an extension on your core pitch. 

Is personalization worth it? You bet. 89% of marketers see a positive ROI when they use personalization in their campaigns

13. Be Clear in What You Offer

With so many stakeholders, complex requirements, and moving parts, it’s important to clearly communicate the value proposition of your product or service and how it benefits the customer. 

Your goal must be to ensure that all parties are aware of exactly how you’ll appease their pain. It’s here, however, that it becomes hard to cater to everyone’s needs.

Don't overpromise.

Confirm everything you can solve while making it clear what is out of scope. You don’t want one miscommunicated item to be the blocker later in the sales cycle.

14. Focus on Solving Problems, Instead of Selling

When you’re used to selling to small businesses, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making sales. 

Small businesses complete the majority of a sales process themselves. They do their research online, hand over all their information, and your role becomes more of an order taker than a relationship builder and problem solver.

When selling to large companies, shift your focus from selling your product to solving your prospect’s problems. 

Rather than a canned demo, for example, show how your solution addresses their specific pain points. If they need to centralize their project management documentation, there’s no need for them to see your new CRM feature.

As you’ve already invested time researching the company, getting to know its stakeholders, and gathering requirements, tailoring a demo, proposal, or outreach becomes a lot easier.

15. Deliver Quickly After the Deal is Closed

While big companies may have long sales cycles, expectation will be rapid movement into the implementation phase. There may still be internal processes to navigate, so doing everything in your control will avoid unnecessary delays.

This might only be a project kick off, but it’s important to move fast here to show you can deliver. Speed isn’t necessarily the goal here. Commitment to providing a great customer experience is, however. 

When it’s obvious you’re willing and invested post-sale, customers will be more receptive to your planned timelines and may take your guidance rather than wait for distractions to resolve themselves.

How AltiSales Can Help

Landing big contracts with large companies means a significant boost for your business. 

Instead of losing time in small deals that never convert, establishing a high-performance sales process for selling to large companies helps you land clients that really move the needle.

The sales process for these deals is more intricate, more demanding, and does take personalization, patience, and hard work.

Not to mention it will take months (or years) to close a deal. 

So, how do you start this complex sales process?

This is where outsourced Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) can be your game-changer.

Outsourced SDRs are experts in the art of B2B sales to large enterprises. They handle the initial legwork, identifying key decision-makers, conducting in-depth research, and nurture relationships that open doors for your core sales team.

This frees your internal salesforce to focus on what they do best…

Closing deals.

Why choose outsourced SDR services?

Get into the businesses you crave without expending significant time and effort on deals that might not convert.

  • You get qualified leads without the upfront work.
  • Eliminate in-house SDR recruitment, training, and management.
  • Your sales team concentrates on closing deals, maximizing their efficiency.
  • Flex your SDR efforts as needed, keeping pace with your sales pipeline.

Ready to unlock the power of selling to large companies? 

Partner with AltiSales to start landing high-value contracts