The Perils of Big Fish

big fish - little fish
So many salespeople and small business owners strive to hook the big fish - the large clients. There's a belief that these are the best customers and that there is validity and credibility attached to being able to say you've won those accounts.

I see it a little differently. When I think about hooking the big fish I think about long sales cycles, low quotes with tight margins, and diversion of attention. Let's take a look at each.

1. Long sales cycles
Large clients make decisions slowly. They have more people involved in the decision making process and they have more priorities. I've seen a lot of salespeople struggle with the inability to move a sale forward. The reality is that larger clients have so many priorities that they may not feel any urgency for what you have to sell. Competing priorities go on all day, every day inside large companies. We can't expect them to maintain interest in our product or service just because we've had a meeting with them. We have to continue to be persistent and patient - all at the same time.

Because these sales cycles are longer we have to also make sure we are pursuing smaller clients at the same time. We have to make sales and bring clients in while we continue to troll for the big catch.

2. Low quotes with tight margins
Large companies are accustomed to negotiating price - in their favor. If we aren't careful we'll end up pricing too low to make the account worthwhile. We have to seriously consider the ROI of winning the big account. If the price is too low and the margins too tight we'll find it tough to grow. We need healthy margins to have money to invest in our business. And to be there for the unexpected. Large clients aren't loyal. They consistently shop their vendors to make sure they are getting the best for the lowest cost. What would happen to your company if your big fish left for a cheaper alternative? All that revenue gone. All that time spent working for them instead of building a client base. Dangerous.

Once again it can seem like a major win to land that big fish. However, what may seem like a coup can turn into a nightmare if the revenue isn't worth the effort.

3. Diversion of attention
Large clients require and demand a lot of attention. And they can. We tend to favor them and understand that we have to consistently nurture them. These clients expect to be taken care of. They expect the VIP treatment. And because we were so focused on getting the business we fall into the same belief system once we've snagged them. We have to give them a lot of attention in order to keep them.

So, we commit resources to them. These are resources we could be using to bring in more medium and small clients. We could be building a foundation of loyal, well priced, evenly handled clients. We could be growing and committing our resources in ways that would benefit our company more than having that big fish.

Step back and consider what you want for your company. I'm imagining it's healthy growth with loyal clients who respect and appreciate what you do for them; it's reasonable margins and a deep bench of clients. It may sound like success to hook the big fish. In reality - success is serving many clients and having the time and money to continue to serve them all well.

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