Why Big Companies Don’t Do Business with You: 7 Steps for Fixing That

This article was contributed by Barbara Weaver Smith, The Whale Hunters

The Whale Hunters like to talk about the “aperture of perception” – that lens through which you focus your prospects’ attention and govern what they see and experience.

Everything that touches the whale (big company prospects) contributes to the buyers’ overall perception of you-for example:

* Telephone answering
* Website
* Location
* Communications
* Print materials and proposals
* D&B profile
* Testimonials

Whales are afraid of smaller companies; they feel safer with other big companies, like themselves. Yet they want the advantages that a small company can offer-undivided attention, innovation, agility, speed of decision-making. Trouble is, they won’t buy advantage when they’re fearful. So the key is to allay their fears by controlling the aperture of perception. Show them many signs that look like, sound like, and feel like “large.”

Here are seven steps to looking larger:

1. Brand

Brand your product or service, not your key person or people. The founding entrepreneur often starts our selling, delivering, and managing-especially in a professional services company. The sooner you can shift the customer’s focus from an individual to a service brand, the faster you will be able to grow and the larger you will appear.

2. Team

Even whales may have bios of their leadership team on the website. But these are professional and objective. On your website and in your literature, eliminate any references to hobbies, pets, and other folksy traits; use uniform head-shot or business casual photos

3. Location

If you are based in a small city or town and want to do business with big-city whales in other states, establish a big city presence in one or more of your target areas. This can be as simple as a virtual location through an executive center or other shared office space arrangement. A professional receptionist, find-me phone service, and local address will send the message.

4. Website

Make your website all about the buyers, not you about you. Who are you trying to attract and what will they be looking for? Some good whale websites are organized according to the size of the customer who is visiting – i.e. consumer services, small business services, enterprise services. Consider how your this kind of distinction could help your website achieve the right tone for both whales and non-whale customers.

5. Niche

Be careful how you present your niche in digital and print materials. WBE/MBE designations are a good example. They position you as a subcontractor and/or a company competing for set-aside projects. If that is the position you intend to occupy, then go for it. But if you also want to be a prime contractor and compete on an equal footing with bigger companies, you will find it extremely difficult to change a whale’s mindset about that pigeonhole in which they’ve placed you. In fact, it could be a reason to have completely separate divisions or companies, one marketed as a WBE/MBE and the other not.

6. Media/News Page

Write a press release each time you sign a new customer, receive an award, achieve a revenue milestone, appoint a new employee or give a raise. Post the releases on your website and maintain a news page with links to each. These press releases have little news value except to you, but they send a message that you are a company that sees itself as newsworthy. On your media page, offer contact information for how media people should reach your PR team-even if that is through your primary phone number and a PR@yourcompany.com email address.

7. Product/Service White Papers

Invest in preparing white papers to supplement your marketing copy. A white paper is a report that makes a business case or explains technical details. It places your products/services in a broader business and technical context. Promote these as free downloads on your website and include them as appropriate during a sale. The white paper is not primarily about your product or service but about what it helps the buyer to accomplish and /or how it works. Consider including industry white papers, written by others, on your website to help educate your prospects.

The Costs of Conflict

I read a lot about conflict and study business communications regularly.  I came across a couple of studies about the time and resource drain that conflict imposes on organizations.

85% of employees report being involved in conflict at work. What does this mean to you? Let’s find out.

Let’s be conservative and assume only 1 hour a week is being lost to situations where conflict has slowed work down.

1.  How many workers does your firm employ?     _____________
2.  Multiply line 1 by .025  (1 hr in a 40hr week)   _____________
3.  Multiply line 2 by 50 (weeks in a year*)             _____________
* no conflict during vacations (Ha!)
4.  Multiply line 3 by their average annual salary   _____________
5.  YIKES!!! The money you could be saving            _____________

It’s worse than that.

Managers spend 40 – 60% of their time navigating and dissolving conflicts in their organizations.

What does this mean to your bottom line?

1.  How many managers does your firm employ?  _____________
2.  Multiply line 1 by 2080 (# work hours/year)     _____________
3.  Multiply line 2 by 50% (.5)                                    _____________
4.  Multiply line 3 by their average annual salary   _____________
5.  YIKES!!! The money you could be saving            _____________

Conflict is a controllable cost.  It takes time to assess, time to disentangle and and time to resolve.  It requires that the parties are willing to come up with a solution that works.  Often times, much healing needs to occur before productive conversations can even begin.

Many people feel helpless and even hopeless about their ability to proactively resolve strong conflict.  There are several ‘interventions’ available to heal a broken situation.  Here is just one.

In any conflict there might be four aspects of the conflict at play:
1. Content – the ‘what’ of the conflict
2. Relationship – the ‘who’ of the conflict and their history together
3. Self-perception – the ‘ego’ of each party
4. Process – the ‘way’ we’ll solve this conflict.

Depending on the people and issue, one or two of these four might play a bigger role.  It’s important to clarify what the conflict is really about before trying to solve it.  Fixing a process issue when the relationship is damaged, won’t work until the relationship issues are addressed. Similarly, coming up with an agreeable solution when the process is still broken will just create more conflict in the future.

Next time you’re tempted to sweep an issue under the proverbial rug, take a minute to estimate the real potential cost of avoiding it.  Then engage the troops in dissolving the dispute.

Outside help may be necessary to navigate troubled waters, especially if you’re swimming in them yourself.  Unless the conflict completely insignificant, don’t let it fester for long.  Even seemingly innocuous issues can escalate until their are out of control and your profits are languishing with no hard cost explanation to justify poor results.

Your Secret Weapon for Business Growth 

I read a story about growing corn (go figure) and immediately saw implications for business owners growing their enterprise.

It’s called “The Good Corn”. The author is unknown.

There was a farmer who grew award-winning corn.  Each year, he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year, a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share you best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir”, said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field.  If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn.  If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

That farmer is very much aware of the connectedness of life.  His corn (business) cannot improve unless his neighbor’s corn (business) also improves.

So it is in other dimensions. Those who chose to be at peace must help their neighbors to be at peace.  Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches.  And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this:  if we are to grow good corn (succeed in business) we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

What does this mean for you?

1. Help your colleagues be more efficient.
When they are freed up from mundane, non-productive tasks, they will have more time and energy to collaborate with you and develop programs or services you can offer your combined clients.

2.  Partner with your ‘neighbors’ for products & services
While your neighbor sells the same ‘corn’ as you, s/he might also produce and sell things you don’t…and vice versa.  Some coach colleagues of mine who have expertise in different areas, have taken those skills and developed a really compelling program that people are signing up for in droves.  By combining their talent, they were able to capitalize on something that the market is really hungry for that neither would have been able to do alone.

3.  Hold fast to the Law of Abundance
Believe that there is an abundance of opportunities, an abundance of prospects and an abundance of ways you can help people. The key is finding where those three things intersect.

We can all grow and share our special brand of great corn. Have faith, work strategically and partner for success.

7 Tips for Work, Leadership & Management Success

I just delivered a two-hour training to executives and senior managers to help build their competence in coaching their staff to achieve results.

It’s tempting for people who have risen to high levels to leverage the wealth of their experience and tell people what to do.  While expedient, it robs others of the opportunity to problem solve, grow and learn.

Here are 7 tips to leverage your expertise while developing the expertise in others.

1. Withstand and encourage differing points of view.
While harmony is easier to deal with in the short term, it robs organizations of the tension needed to spur creativity.  Encouraging every voice to be heard will open doors to possibilities that would die on the vine of silence.

2. Share the credit for brilliant work done by your staff.
Celebrate the genius of your staff.  Provide them opportunities to ‘strut their stuff’.  Let them know precisely how their great ideas and good work contribute to the company’s mission and bottom-line results.

3. Shoulder the blame of subordinates.
When things go awry, let them learn from their mistakes.  Help staff analyze how they could prevent or avoid future incidents from occurring.  Provide them cover however from retribution from on high.  Take the heat and let them grow from lessons learned.  They’ll love you for it

4. Learn on the job yourself.
Don’t assume you know everything there is to know.  Attend conferences, take classes to keep your industry knowledge and business leadership skills sharp.  Try new things. Practice new behaviors that are outside of your comfort zone. There’s always more to go.

5. Be aware of your own weaknesses & hire in your competency gaps.
No human can do everything brilliantly.  Know your strengths and leverage them.  Identify those areas in which you do not excel and hire people who are masterful in them.  No point in having a team that is filled with people who all have the same skills and points of view.  Think of most sports teams: championship teams are composed of players with different responsibilities, skills and goals.

6. Channel anger in positive ways.
Work can be quite frustrating.  Anger and passion have a lot in common:  they’re just expressed differently.  Use your energy for creating change in a positive, collaborative way. Take that thing that makes you want to scream and develop a proposal for a new process for your company.

7. Support staff in thinking through how to solve problems themselves.
Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you have to…or even should…have all the answers.  Don’t end up with monkeys on your back that don’t belong to you.  Next time someone shows up with a problem, take a few minutes to ask them how they would solve it.  Have them identify where the breakdowns are occurring and what steps could be taken to rectify the situation. Then empower them to ‘make it so’. They’ll become better thinkers and you’ll end up with less stuff on your plate.

Following these 7 tips will help you surround yourself with more loyal, capable people and make your work life easier to boot.