Ep. 178 Selling to corporates

selling to corporates

In this week’s podcast, Anna looks at the pros and cons of selling to corporates.

One of the key questions we look at when we’re developing a new business model is: who are your target clients? And, as you leave your corporate job, one possibility, of course, is to work with those same types of companies. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of selling to corporates?


*Resources mentioned during the episode*

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Selling to corporates


Hello there. So I’ve got another good topic for you today. It’s part of my ask Anna series where you, the audience are able to ask me anything at all, hopefully within my remit, within my expertise, but I have quite a broad range of knowledge. So try me, but you can ask me by emailing podcast, step one, step outside.com or post in my Facebook group, messaging me on Instagram, LinkedIn, wherever you choose to be active I’m in most places. So you have many options to get in touch. And again, this is my ask, Anna Siri. So the point of this podcast is, and the point of everything I do really is to give you guys value, to answer your questions, to support you, to provide solutions to your problems. So please help me help you. Help me do that by asking your questions. If it feels like a stupid question, honestly, it isn’t.

And so many other people will gain value from hearing what you are asking. So if you can dare to ask the question that feels or difficult or stupid or whatever to you, I promise you that hopefully it’ll be valuable for you and guaranteed. It’ll be valuable for a lot of other people too. So the question today that keeps coming back in fact is how do I sell to corporate to actually rather why? Or, or should I sell to corporate as by is the question, which is this debate between B to B, B to C business, to business business, to consumer, meaning do I sell to other companies or do I sell to individuals? And so here’s my experience of this. When we leave corporate, a lot of us anonymous here, lots of us rebel against that whole world because let’s face it. That’s what we’re leaving.

We’re rebelling against the politics, the bureaucracy potentially a toxic work culture bosses that have been difficult, a different set of values. We want to make a different kind of impact.

We maybe have more of an altruistic social impact act. We want to make. When I left, initially I was looking into social entrepreneurship. I did a, a course with Oxford. Uh, I was going in quite a different direction. You know, there are a lot of reasons why we are leaving corporate and some of them are to do with the very nature of the beast, the entity, the culture, the ways of working, the higher, the profit driven objectives and so on. So there’s a push against away from that whole world. And in that case, we are drawn more to B2C business, to individual with coaching, with graphic design services, all these things. A lot of my clients choose to work with individuals, choose to work with solopreneurs, smaller business owners and so on because of their values, because of, again, rebelling against that corporate world.

On the other side of the spectrum, I had many colleagues who in fact left my company left, where I was working before I left and then came back and were essentially selling their service to the company, which with hindsight felt a bit odd, but actually was incredibly clever because they were earning way more than we were. Consultants can charge much more. They were their own bosses from quite a junior role internally. They were suddenly ho nobbing with the senior executives. You know, I remember funny enough, somebody who had had my role before. I don’t think you were listening, James, but you know, you are, um, who had had my digital role before me. Uh, he came back and charged us. He wanted to charge us. So I wanna say it was like 17,000 pounds. Maybe it was 10,000. I don’t know, but for me it was a lot of money.

Maybe it was even Swiss Franks at the time. I thought this is outrageous. This is something I could do in a few hours. I didn’t on that side of the fence, internally to the corporation. I didn’t understand obviously what it takes to be a consultant, the different ways of working the different pricing structures and so on, but that was prey clear that that was a, a good strategy to operate with, to take your skills that are very much valued by that corporation and sell them back to them. Essentially, maybe you didn’t have the creative freedom and so on inside, but now you’re your own boss. You can build your own company and you can sell back to that company or other similar companies. I have other clients who’ve done that with, uh, with search opt work and you know, a lot of things, in fact that you were doing internally, you can then go outside and sell back to the company.

Why not? So those are the two ends of the spectrum, I suppose, rebelling completely. No, I never wanna work with a corporation ever again to, ah, I’m gonna go right back to the same companies I was working with before just externally.

So all see, depending on what your escape is about, if it’s to do with the culture and the bureaucracy and, and the ways of working and so on, then probably you want to move away from that. If in fact it’s more about being your own boss and, and having the flexibility and freedom. And so on more related to how you work, perhaps not so much in the nature of the work, then why not come back and earn more money doing what you were doing before. So more, um, what would be the word, less altruistically, whatever that is then more cynically, I suppose, but also factually speaking, there’s a reason why B2B B business to, and in particular to corporate rather than necessarily early stage startups and charities and so on.

There’s a reason why that’s so appealing. Let’s face it. That’s where the money is. Big companies, big corporate entities have greater purchasing power. You’ll be able to do bigger projects with them and therefore you’ll need fewer projects. Also, importantly, it’s familiar because that’s the whole culture. That’s what I’ve been doing the last 10, 20 plus of my career. So it’s within my comfort zone. It’s very much comfortable, familiar. They value our skillset. They know, you know, so many companies after I left, uh, P and G saw P and G on the CV and you from the sort of understanding in the industry, I guess that that’s the top level multinational, an incredible branding marketing school. And I could come and, and, and a lot of us do come and take what we knew from our, that company world incredibly. And we went and implemented that in other companies, for example.

So there were obvious advantages to working with those companies. However I’ve seen in the past. And I remember I was, I was particularly cynical at the beginning of my coaching experience because I had so many peers actually, rather than clients, peers who wanted to work with, and I’m exaggerating here, but, you know, single moms who had no and X, Y, Z, and, and very much admirable lable needed, uh, client targets, right? And then very quickly, they realised by definition, these people couldn’t afford to work with them. They, they couldn’t pay. And therefore they, again, they swung the pendulum all the way back to the other side, selling their souls effectively to do they didn’t want to do, but it earned the money. And I think there’s so many nuanced shades between the one extreme and the other, right. There are ways in which we can be altruistic and support groups that need that support vulnerable groups, but that can’t afford the high ticket items while we do more expensive work, uh, more value add higher end work with, with companies perhaps, uh, or, or we provide ecosystems of products or suites of products that, that allow you to work with people across a range of budgets.

Right? I provide so much free support. I really do my best in terms of over delivering really terms of free Facebook group engagement. Even by messaging, trying to help people where I know they can’t afford necessarily the services. Obviously there is volunteering pro bono. I’ve done in the past podcast. This podcast in itself, you can listen to, and if you implemented everything, I said, I’d guarantee you’d be more successful than I am. So that’s something to bear in mind and not to mention all the free, those et cetera, et cetera. Right? So there are ways in which you can address those different needs with a business model. Now let’s come back to those corporates. What are some of the disadvantages? Well, it, interestingly with, with a client, actually, it was a couple of years ago. We first started thinking about this because I haven’t been selling to corporates.

And so it took me a while to realise this, there is a dark side, which is, there are so many stakeholders, you know, do you contact HR?

They, they love working with you, but they don’t necessarily have the budget. Right. Do you go to the execs who then don’t have the time? You can’t even get past the gatekeeper to talk to that person? How do you get to the right decision maker? Decision making is very slow. The sales cycle is long. There’s more complexity. And as I’m experiencing now with a couple of corporate projects, getting set up as a vendor, and I remember this from my internal days too, it’s very complex. And obviously once you’re there, hopefully you’re set up and you are, you are good to go. Um, but there is complexity. There is that longer process. You have less control, I’d argue over payment terms, you know, our, our, uh, corporate payment policies terms and so on.

We’re very much, you know, 45 days payment. It takes this long to get you set up as a vendor before could even so end your, uh, your initial estimate. Then you need to wait for the purchase order. Then you’re supposed to start working, but everyone inevitably started working before that. And then you have to wait the invoice, et cetera, cetera, et cetera. And then you have to chase the invoice, right? And in the UK, I know, especially there are lots of late payment issues. Arguably with companies, there are also more standard working hours, Monday to Friday, certain office hours. So if you want to have freedom from that potentially working evenings and weekends and mornings, or just flexibly in general, then obviously tying yourself to clients who by definition works. Certain hours is, is not gonna be great. So those are some of the disadvantages.

So it might seem easier to sell a couple of big projects. Whenever I do the maths in my business model trainings, you know, you can go, Hey, if you want a hundred K a year sell 100 K project to one company, right? Or you do two 50 K projects to two companies, 3 30, 3 0.3, three, three, et cetera, versus trying to sell a thousand courses for, for a hundred pounds or whatever that looks like. Right? So it seems easier to sell to those companies. But again, there are those disadvantages, the, the complexity, the longer sales cycle decision, making the bureaucracy, the being tied to certain hours, having less control over the boundaries you’re setting and so on. So obviously once you’ve built your equity, your personal brand respect, if you’re able to set those boundaries, if you’re able to define the contract on your terms, that’s amazing may or may not be possible, especially when you’re just starting out.

And especially with a big company, you, as a small individual might not have so much say or sway. So it comes down to as ever, what is your definition of success? What’s your purpose? What is that ICA guy in terms of your skills and strengths, the things you really enjoy doing, do you enjoy working with big companies where the processes are long and bureaucratic? However, they have the capability, the capacity, the efficiency, right? If you work with something a bit more chaotic, like a startup, yes. You don’t have all the bureaucracy and so on, but to be honest, it can be pretty frustrated if you’re used to working with companies in companies where things are like clockwork and established, right. So do you like that established stable environment where things are predictable, or do you like the chaos? Do you like to wear all those different hats stepping in and so on?

Where, where you may or may not, you know, uh, have agreed to step in, but you have that kind of flexible, exciting dynamic kind of role. What kind of impact do you wanna be making and what kind of money you want? Do you wanna be earning in what terms, in terms of choosing your client? I also have a checklist that I use. So let me pull that up and I’ll just go through some of the core questions on there. Ultimately, whoever you’re choosing to work with, and I’m simplifying here with corporates versus not corporates or corporates versus individuals, but think, and you might wanna pause here and take notes. You can come back, do they have a problem that you can solve by the way, are they aware that they have a problem and are they actively looking for a solution? Because if you have to convince them that they have a problem, convince them that they need this solution, then that’s a lot of work for you to do before you even get to the point of selling them and convincing them that you are the right person to do.

So. So do they have a problem you can solve? Are they aware of that problem and looking for a solution? Are they willing and able to pay? That’s cool. Right? And it may or may not be obvious. Don’t assume that somebody has the money or doesn’t have the money. Because again and again, I’ve been surprised in both directions. So some people are very willing to invest in their personal development and others are not, and it doesn’t correlate in a linear fashion with your income and suppose income, can you get in front of them? Are you, how can you be visible? Do you have the network? Do you have the ability to become known to them? Are you relatable and credible to this group or company or ideal client? Do they share your core values and will they respect your boundaries? And those are ask two questions, I think are, are questions that people don’t ask themselves often enough.

There’s no point in you doing this wonderful work on your record guy and your values and your non-negotiables. If you then go off and work with companies where you have no influence over how you work together, you know, there’s a disconnect between what they value, what you value and on paper, they have a clear purpose.

And so, but it’s of reality and so on, right? So do they share your core values and will they respect your boundary? So those are the questions. And again, it comes down to how do you want to work? What kind of product or service do you want to be delivering? How do you want to deliver it also? How do you want to be marketing and selling? Because the process can be different for B to B BTC. Now, as everyone I’ve talked to in my peer group recently has said, B2B still means person to person.

We’re still working with individuals because me working with a company I’m still liaising with individuals within that company. But nonetheless, there’s a different dynamic when you’re working with a company, a big corporate than there is working with a smaller company, smaller organisation, so printer or individual consumer. So I hope that was helpful. Again, do, please ask me all questions. You can email me@podcastonestepoutside.com or message me on your favourite social platform. So that was, should I be selling to corporates? And I hope you found that insightful and useful as you decide on the right business model for you. I look forward to seeing you back here, next speak bye for now all.


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