Going after a large client can be a daunting undertaking for a small business, but Steve Kaplan, a former top corporate executive turned entrepreneur and author, contends the job can be done with the proper strategy and logic.
Kaplan compares a large company to an animal, which, if trained and properly handled, can be made obedient and cooperative. Accordingly, his new book, Bag the Elephant: How to Win & Keep BIG Customers, outlines winning strategies for business owners who wish to literally snare these large corporate “animals.” Readers learn how to close sales with bigger clients; how to find and nurture “inside champions”— those who will help you get your foot in the door; and how to keep and build more profitable relationships with big clients once you’ve bagged them.
The book is divided into five parts, each with a quirky heading that describes a particular stage of your pursuit of the “elephant.” Each part is subdivided into chapters. In Part I, “Your Elephant Is Waiting,” Kaplan describes the strategy for allying yourself with big companies. No matter the size of the company, he writes, every business follows one of three basic paths: the “Trail of the Snail,” where the business owner loses his identity to his company and grinds away without reaping any of the benefits; the “Arc of the Shooting Star,” where a company falls victim to its own success; and the “Bag the Elephant Track,” which leads to steady and manageable growth.
In Chapter 2 of Part I, small and midsize companies are encouraged to believe that large companies need them just as much they need the large companies. In Part II, Chapter 3, “The Big-Company Focus: Learning to Think Like an Elephant,” Kaplan outlines practices toward achieving the proper mind-set:
Kaplan next tells readers “What to Know About Elephants: The Who, How, What and When.” In Chapter 5, “Embracing the Bureaucracy: Making Their Red Tape Work for You,” he notes that while the bureaucracy of a large company may be disliked by most entrepreneurs, “[learn] to view big prospect’s bureaucracy as a tool you can turn to your advantage.”
Part III, “Romancing Your Elephant,” brings you in contact with the business. “Drawing Up Your Hit List: Finding Your Best Big-Company Prospects” is the first step, after which comes Chapter 7, “Knocking on Doors: Making that First Solid Contact.” In this chapter, Kaplan makes this task easy by outlining a New Client Development Flow Chart with elements such as a prospect database, introductory mailing, phone calls between mailings, updating the data list and scheduling and finalizing the deal.
Chapter 8, “Matching the Prospector to the Prospect,” offers tips on putting your best face forward by assigning your salespeople where they will have the best chance for success with the client.
Part IV, “Leveraging Your Elephant’s Power,” describes how to maintain and strengthen relationships once you’ve established them.
Kaplan concludes the book with Part V, “Five Killer Mistakes,” calling attention, in Chapters 15 through 19, to blunders businesses must avoid. These include mismanaging client expectations; bungling client crises; biting off more than you can chew; putting all your eggs in one basket; and losing sight of the numbers.
The anecdotes throughout the book are realistic experiences in the small business world with helpful lessons. Additional tips and advice can be obtained from his Web site at www.differencemaker.com .
Bag the Elephant! - How to Win & Keep BIG Customers
Author: Steve Kaplan
Publisher: Bard Press
|Reviewed by Patrice Toombs|