Landing the big fish, bagging the elephant, or whatever you want to call it—what channel pro with a small IT shop hasn’t thought about landing a big client (or two) that would send total billings through the roof? That’s assuming, of course, that once that big account is on the hook, it stays there.
Interestingly, the things that help small providers get larger-client business are pretty much the same ones that help them keep it—namely, leveraging their network of partnerships with other IT pros and focusing on personal contact.
When pitching business to larger potential clients, “Smaller firms always get the message that they're too small to handle big business matters, but having a good partner ecosystem eliminates that,” says Manuel W. Lloyd, founder and CEO of Manuel W. Lloyd Consulting, an IT consultancy in Wilmington, N.C. Conversely, larger businesses often have concerns about whether a smaller IT firm can provide the expertise necessary to tackle big jobs/big issues, and do so in a timely fashion, according to Paul Smith, a partner at Datasmith Network Solutions, Walpole, Mass.
Smaller providers can overcome this by showing they have quick access to this kind of expertise through their relationships with others in the IT business. For Datasmith, this includes being able to reach out tofellow members of organizations such as the VentureTech Network, a community of 350 technology providers who collaborate to share ideas and resources, as well as distributors the firm works with.
“Our ability to leverage these relationships helps us win and keep the business of larger clients,” says Smith. “I make sure they know that any time I need additional expertise, I reach out to the network and/or one of our distributors and, in a lot of instances, get an engineer sent out [who] will work with me on a contract basis, as if they were on my payroll.”
The Personal Touch
Once you get the business, work on keeping it by outsourcing small tasks, freeing up you and your top people to build personal, productive, high-touch relationships with your new client. “Save your employees for personal contact and high-level customer service issues and outsource the day-to-day stuff that eats up time,” says Lloyd. Utilize an outsourced help desk and on-site network to handle technical problems, he advises, “while you, the business owner, and your employees focus on superior, answer-the-phone-live customer service.”
Lloyd’s other tips for keeping those larger clients include making sure you have a good contract in place. “Don’t be enamored just because it’s a big client,” he says, adding, “Try to get a three- to five-year term if possible.” Meanwhile, capitalize on your new business by building relationships, whether by referral or networking, with businesses in fields related to that of your client’s.
“If using referrals, incentivize [your big client] by reducing their bill or some other type of thank you,” Lloyd advises. And, “Network, network, network, and when you’re tired of networking, network some more with all the affiliates, and even in some cases the customers, of that large client.”