Published August 2005

How can you find
‘bigger game’ for clients?

Dear BizBest: While my business is growing, our average client is smaller and less well healed than I’d like to see. I want to bag some bigger game, but we’ve had minimal success in this territory. How do we make the shift? — Seeking Bigger Game

Dear Seeking: Just as big companies differ from small ones, and wealthy buyers aren’t the same as penny pinchers, big customers differ from little ones. To bag them — and keep them — you may need some special strategies and tactics.

Millions of entrepreneurs dream about winning the blockbuster deal that will cement their financial future. But only a few know how to attract the attention of the most lucrative accounts.

Could be you’re simply not thinking big enough or targeting the right big game. Maybe you’re making common mistakes that often quash small biz and big buyer relationships before they ever have a chance to soar.

Negotiating your way through a big buyer’s bureaucracy can be tricky. Often there are many layers of individuals involved, and special requirements to meet, some obvious, some hidden. And over time, the people can change, leaving you in a pickle.

Specifically targeting big customers is a worthy goal, and worth the time to do it right. A single giant sale can inject much-needed cash into a small business, and along with it the ability to expand and nurture your dream in ways you never thought possible.

Steve Kaplan, founder of The Difference Maker Inc., has “been-there/done-that.” He turned a home-based operation into a $250 million business in 10 years by targeting what he calls “elephants,” and has worked with businesses from runaway winners to outright dogs.

Kaplan, author of “Bag the Elephant: How to Win & Keep Big Customers,” pinpoints these four things you must know to successfully sell to big customers:

1) Who does what. Learn who influences, who buys and who kills. Find out who is involved, and what each of them needs and expects from you.

2) How to make their list. Many big buyers only do business with vendors and service providers who are on their preferred list. Your job is to get your name at the top of that list in as many categories as possible.

3) The company’s unique quirks, lingo and culture. Every big organization has its own idiosyncrasies and language, including acronyms, clichés and nicknames. Learn them all. Keep your eyes and ears open. Study their Web site and marketing materials. Being able to “talk the talk” is one thing that separates insiders from outsiders.

4) Their budget season. When discussing your product or service, ask when the company budgets and when it makes decisions. Learn details of the process so you’ll know when to approach. Don’t be locked out simply because you were late.

As you pursue your big game, lavish them with attention. Return calls and answer questions quickly. Address problems immediately. Be vigilant throughout the entire process, including presentations, quotes, client requests, delivery and follow-up, says Kaplan.

If you land a big customer, position yourself as a trusted partner in a long-term relationship and you will be well rewarded.

Daniel Kehrer ( is founder of BizBest, publisher of “The 100 Best Resources for Small Business.” For more information, visit his Web site at

Back to the top/August 2005 Main Menu


© 2005 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA