“Bagging the Elephant” ...”Whale Hunting” ... “Big Game Hunt” … it seems there are as many cute metaphors for going after big business as there are companies in the Fortune 500. This is not surprising, because pursuing a Fortune 500 account can be one of the most difficult goals a small business owner can tackle, and, at the same time, it can absolutely transform a growing company. The process is complex, exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately, incredibly satisfying when you win. For a growing staffing firm, bagging that next elephant – or in some cases deciding if you even want to suit up to go on the hunt - may determine the entire direction of the company, or ensure its survival.
So what, exactly should you, as an operator of small and growing staffing firm, beware of when considering bagging a Fortune 500 logo as your next growth step? First, you must understand [more]your strengths and differentiators as a company. You know that competing against the national players is tough. The game is already heavily weighted in their favor, especially if you’re a rookie. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have a specific niche or recruiting skill set that sets you apart;
- Do you have deep coverage of a particular geographic region;
- Is there a diversity status or size threshold that makes you appealing to particular users of labor;
- Does your marketing approach easily communicate your strengths to the Fortune 500 world?
- Do your website and other marketing materials speak the Fortune 500 language, making it clear that you can help them achieve their goals?
Once you’ve answered these questions and know your positioning, it’s time for targeted research. You are not going after every company in the Fortune 500 database. Consider your geographic footprint and verticals. Who are the handful of targets that really make sense for you? Once you have that short list, find out all you can about those companies and their contingent workforce programs. Are they managed internally or through an MSP? Are decisions made centrally or at the branch/location level? Who are their current suppliers? Where are they in their contract cycle? Do they have a supplier diversity program?
Now that you know who you are and whom you are targeting, what’s next? Once you’re committed, it takes an investment of time and money to get close to the big game and nurture long-term relationships. Relying on your standard ‘drop by to leave flyers and candy’ one time will only get you so far. Either you, the owner/operator, have the skill set, patience, and time to devote to this endeavor, or, you bring in a top tier sales professional (i.e., expensive) to execute your plan for you. Either way, it can be a large investment in a long sales cycle. Part of this plan includes networking, joining industry organizations, attending conferences, and participating in key industry events. Who you know matters. A warm introduction to a hiring manager, procurement officer, or MSP program manager is incredibly valuable and can reduce this sales cycle by months.
Finally, when it’s time for an RFP response or contract negotiation, do you know what you’re looking for? Can you comply with all that is required of a supplier? Are the markup and payment terms reasonable? Can you fill the jobs? Are you contracting with the actual corporate user, or an MSP, and what are the implications? Time, and time again, we see entrepreneurs with great business models and plenty of “big game” right in their sweet spot, but their challenge is finding the resources – and patience - to take all of the steps that it takes to win large contracts. This is why we created Advance Workforce Solutions (AWS) – a platform and suite of solutions to help entrepreneurial staffing firms compete and win large contracts. AWS assists with strategic sales planning, marketing support, and specific introductions to large users of labor. There is no one magic bullet to kill the whale (nothing like mixing 3 metaphors at once!), but we know the business is out there and, with a bit of help and planning, you can bag it. What is your experience with big game? As always, we’d love to hear from you.
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