Just read a very insightful post over at Garth’s World, the new blog by Garth Moulton, one of the co-founders of Jigsaw, the wildly successful online business contact directory.
In his post Help Wanted: Easter Bunny, Garth rails against companies that have an unrealistic expectation of what new sales hires can bring to the table, particularly this job requirement: “Must have a strong industry rolodex with solid relationships with CxOs from Fortune 500.” As Garth says:
Whatever template that company founders use to get their initial round of funding (we couldn’t seem to find it in 2003 so we had to wing it) seems to come hard coded with Fortune 500 companies as the target, no matter what you are selling. The smallest Fortune 500 company has over $1B in sales and 1000 employees. You might as well try to stand out in the local American Idol audition. I’m sure Simon wants to hear how blahbablabable your whatsit is.
Oh how true. And the problem isn’t just recruiting, it’s marketing also. At CDI, there’s scarcely a company we talk to these days that doesn’t have “C-level contacts at Global 2000 corporations” as one of their primary markets. Now sometimes there are very legitimate reasons for such a lofty target. It could be that only billion dollar corporations can afford your product. Or only companies with 10,000 employees have the scale to achieve real ROI.
From this vantage point, however, it seems to me that many companies targeting the Fortune 500 or Global 2000 do so simply out of a need to generate the biggest deals in the shortest possible time. In reality, meanwhile, executives at mid-size companies are easier (and less expensive) to reach, the sales cycles are much shorter, and even if you’re generating leads from influencers and other contacts further down the corporate ladder, it’s a much shorter distance to the real decision-maker.
Lastly, aiming for the Fortune 500 exclusively limits your direct marketing options significantly, whereas if you open up your market even slightly, a whole range of other, less expensive media options come into play.
My advice: aim low.
Great post. My take. If you only go after the Fortune 500…you only have 500 possible customers. There are about 500,000 businesses in the US with over 50 employees. Do the math. 🙂
I agree that’s good insight but I disagree with Jame – one Fortune 500 firm could actually be a customer in many different areas, in different geographies, line of business areas, or applications. You usually are not selling to one company, they have many divisions who could all be customers.
Where I agree though is about the C-level. Mid-level job titles at big companies seem to be better prospects. I have seen people get a little lazy because C-level titles are easy to get from Hoovers and they don’t want to take time to do the cold calling to get to the right mid-level person. If you find the right Director/VP, he/she can be the champion to walk you into the C suite.