Billion-dollar companies being billion dollar companies, they know how to win at business. To go to market against them and come away with a share of the spoils, a five to 100-million-dollar company has to do the proverbial more with less.
Here are six ways your company can emulate the practices of billion-dollar companies to win more business.
1. Billion-dollar companies know the Internet enabled customers to take over the conversation, and that they’re not giving it back.
You know how well your company has honed its products and services to meet customer needs. So the temptation to extoll their feature-by-feature virtues is strong. But when a company launches into its features-and-benefits story right from the get-go, they’ve fallen prey to small-company thinking from the bygone days before the Internet. Customers don’t want a linear presentation in your company’s voice. They want to hear their voice in what your company has to say. They want to be heard. They want to be understood.
“Customer-centric focus” may be a business cliché these days, but this term remains the best way to describe the attitude billion-dollar brands exhibit toward their customers. It’s a focus to embody at every touch point if you want your customers to feel valued. So do what the most successful companies do. Focus less on what you have to gain. Focus more on how you can communicate empathy for customer needs and wants. The gain will inevitably follow.
2. Billion-dollar companies never lose sight of what they’re good at and how they create value. Neither should your company.
In an effort to grow, companies often develop and launch new products or services they feel are extensions of their core offerings. When enthusiasm blunts objections that make sense, the result can be a go-to-market effort that goes nowhere. Billion-dollar companies are not immune to such mistakes. The famous failure of Ford’s Edsel automobile comes to mind as does Apple’s Newton personal digital assistant and Coca-Cola’s infamous New Coke.
Even lesser known business failures offer lessons for all. Take Rubbermaid Commercial Products’ foray into office furniture in the mid-1980s. The company had a sterling reputation for its well-designed line of molded, plastic office products. With PCs flooding into widespread office use, Rubbermaid Commercial Products realized the need for a more ergonomically friendly computer desk and theorized that it was just the company to design and make the adjustable computer stand businesses needed. The resulting “fully adjustable, fully affordable” computer stand was a total dud. While such a product would always make excellent sense for a Herman Miller or a Steelcase, for a maker of plastic in-and-out boxes, pencil cups, and wall files, it was a stretch of rubber-band factory proportions.
What are the capabilities that your company excels at? Which ones help differentiate you from your competitors? Zero in on these capabilities and differentiators with a radical focus. And as a company, ask yourself if the next seeming opportunity that comes along truly aligns with your focus, or whether it would shift it away from your core business, with the potential to be a costly mistake.
Focus less on what you have to gain. Focus more on how you can communicate empathy for customer needs and wants. The gain will inevitably follow.
3. In pursuit of growth, huge corporations have more more-experienced staff to draw on. Scale up to match them.
Huge, successful companies don’t have staff sitting around waiting for assignments. When large corporations merge, for example, they typically don’t expect their already slammed IT departments to drop everything they’re doing to make their two enterprise systems one. Instead, they bring in outside IT experts who specialize in this complex task. Another example is the decision to enter a new market domestically or overseas. A “We don’t know what we don’t know” approach only makes sense, so smart companies find and rely on financial partners who help them vet unknown markets, which in turn enables them to take on new business confidently.
Determine what your company’s needs are in a given situation and scale up temporary staff or rely on proven financial partners for expert advice. Insist on qualities that jell well with your corporate ethos. The same attention your company typically brings to vetting full-time hires should apply to consulting firms or individuals brought in as well as its choices in significant financial partners. You want people to hit the ground running, not stumbling.
4. Billion-dollar companies don’t assume they know their customers as well as they should. Neither should your company.
The simplest way to always be on top of what customers need in the manner they need is to ask them. Short written evaluations, brief interviews, and surveys constitute three proven querying methods. They’re worth the effort to perform.
In turn, they can lead to performance enhancements. Customers who are listened to become happy, satisfied customers; happy, satisfied customers often become advocates for the companies that please them. No billion-dollar company got to be a billion-dollar company by ignoring its one-to-one customer relationships. Your company’s attitude should always be that it cannot know its customers and their needs well enough. The effort to know them must never stop.
Determine what your company’s needs are in a given situation and scale up temporary staff or rely on proven financial partners for expert advice.
5. You may not be able to do everything billion-dollar companies do to win proposals. But then, you don’t have to.
Size and resources aren’t the only reasons billion-dollar corporations beat out smaller companies in the proposal-winning game. Huge companies approach proposals with a different mindset.
To begin with, they think about bids years before their due dates because more upfront time means better preparation. They establish each proposal’s budget based on a percentage of the award’s value (as opposed to current liquidity). If the proposal would benefit from bringing in a consultant, they don’t shy away from spending the money. And upper level staff or proposal specialists prepare the bids, not less experienced people.
To compete with the proposal-winning advantages of billion-dollar corporations, a small to medium-sized company should first take more of a long-term view. It should bring in outside experience to make up for any lack of institutional history on the nature of a given proposal. If necessary, it should consider judicious financing to add oomph to the proposal effort.
Ultimately, patient discipline and an established process mean working smarter. That’s what it takes to compete with the big guys and come away the winner.
6. You don’t have to be a billion-dollar company to leverage your assets like one.
Your small to medium-sized company wants to expand its facilities. Or it wants to expand into a new market. Whatever expansion is, it’s always about growth. And oftentimes, the financing that makes that growth doable. What makes the financing doable, especially with attractive terms, is your company’s credit standing. Hence one salient question to ask is this: is your company leveraging all of its financial assets, for all they are worth? Billion-dollar companies leverage theirs.
Believe it or not, it’s easy to overlook one significant asset: the money owed your company: your accounts receivables. These “paper assets” may be among the largest assets your company has. That’s assuming each invoice is paid. If your company has extended credit to customers, you’re banking on that assumption—but not in the sense of securing better financing terms.
With credit insurance coverage, however, your accounts receivables become secured collateral. The amount of guaranteed payment is an asset any banking partner will take favorable note of, which in turn can translate into not only more working capital, but working capital at more favorable rates as well. The advantages of turning A/R into a collateralized asset can change your company’s mindset, enabling confident growth in whatever direction your company desires.
Hence one salient question to ask is this: is your company leveraging all of its financial assets, for all they are worth? Billion-dollar companies leverage theirs.
In summary, you don’t have to be a billion-dollar company to emulate their practices when they can be applied successfully to your company’s needs and goals. The question is, how do you do that in principle for a company of your size? Consider the previous six suggestions. Add to them with your own insights. And one day, your company may become a case history for a billion-dollar brand to study.