Selling to a major company, as in large, multi-site, Billion Dollar plus accounts, is very different from selling to a small or medium sized company. Among the many differences you will find, the biggest difference is the myth of calling at the top. Chances are pretty good that the CEO doesn't know enough about the problem you can solve and has little interest in rolling up his sleeves to work on it with you. Most salespeople try to call on the next highest ranking executive, not necessarily the best move.
Your company probably sells one of two things: If you sell something the customer already buys, will continue to buy or has decided to buy, the simple challenge is for them to choose you. You can take the easy way in, call on the buyer and compete on price, or you can do it the hard way and call on someone who cares enough to change vendors if there is a compelling reason to do so.
If you sell something that the customer never considered buying, the challenge is to create a need. If you call on the VP of something, in most cases, that person wants to protect her job, not stick her neck out and create waves; so what you'll hear is that everything is great. So rather than calling on a decision maker, you'll have to find the highest ranking executive who cares enough about the issue you can solve to 1) admit to it; and 2) drive the process to bring your solution in house.
So, in essence, it doesn't matter whether you find yourself selling something they decided to buy or something they haven't decided to buy. The common denominator is that in the major account, you must find someone to drive the process, someone who cares enough to to drive you there, a chauffeur of sorts.
You might know those people as champions but I think there is a huge difference between a champion and a chauffeur. Champions are your friends, supporters and internal talking and walking testimonials. However, they are often not strong enough to drive it up the decision-making chain, instead, only influencing matters with peers and subordinates. Chauffeurs on the other hand are not intimidated with titles, may be trying to make a name for themselves, and will drive uphill as easily as a champion drives downhill.
Find the right chauffeur and the VP of whatever may be compelled to act in a way that benefits you. As the leader of your sales organization, your job is to make sure your salespeople know how to identify this person, contact and connect with this person, and get the sales process moving by uncovering this person's compelling reasons to take action. Can they do that? Can you help them?
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan