Hunting Bigger Sales: Best Practices from Tom Searcy


You should be closing bigger deals. Tom Searcy can show you how.

I’ve seen Tom speak twice now, at two separate Inc Magazine events, and he’s focused on helping clients hunt and close big sales. What makes Tom’s ideas particularly valuable is that he’s followed them himself many times to close whale accounts, and will be the first to tell you he’s directly made many of the mistakes he now addresses and overcomes in his books and presentations.

After seeing Tom again last week at Inc’s Growth Conference, we sat down to talk a bit more about how companies and sales organizations can get smarter, more confident and more successful at closing large accounts.

Matt: A lot of business owners, even salespeople, get intimidated when thinking about going after the big sale. How do you recommend they get beyond that?

Tom: Let’s first define big. A big sale is whatever YOU define it to be. For many of the people I speak to and work with, a Big Sale represents an account ten to twenty times the size of their average account. For most companies, this still represents a new account that will be less than 5-10% of their total revenue. This makes the result significant, but usually not too intimidating. Second, knowing what characteristics in a prospect or potential company client you want in advance of the sale gives a sense of control. If the opportunity does not meet those characteristics, then you don’t pursue that opportunity, regardless of its size. Third, I find that most everyone feels better when they have a plan to follow. In my book, “Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company,” I really focused on a defined plan so that when you are going after that big deal you have a clear map to follow.

M: Should organizations go after big deals in lieu of the smaller deals, or is there a balance that’s more ideal?

T: For most people and companies I recommend a portfolio approach to selling deals. Similar to an investment portfolio, you set out a percentage of your revenue that you want from big deals, mid-size deals and small deals. Accompanying this is your estimated time investment that you are planning to make in the pursuit of these different size deals. It is like an investment portfolio in that you are looking for a balanced approach to your investments and returns. Most of my clients put at least 20-30% of their time into large account selling. They hunt another 30-40% of the time for mid-size deals. The balance of their time is spent working with the smaller deals. This investment in small deals is in part because they know that small deals sometimes grow up into bigger deals, so they make an investment in the future by developing relationships with these smaller opportunities when they see the potential for growth.

M: From the buyer’s mindset, why would they choose a smaller company over a big one to power the product or solution they’re seeking?

T: Bigger companies love to work with smaller companies…who feel and act like big companies. They hire smaller companies because they are innovative, service-oriented, fast and responsive. Big companies like the fact that they have leverage in the relationship- everyone wants to be your most important client and big companies get that attention from small companies. It is our responsibility to supplement all of those great advantages that we bring to big companies with ways to make them feel safe in hiring our smaller company. Smaller companies can feel risky to a big company. They have questions about whether you are stable or not. Will you be around in a year? Do you have the resources to really do the job? And on and on. In the sales process we have to anticipate what those possible concerns are and then show that we have those bases covered.

M: What advice do you find yourself giving sales organizations most often, based on what they’re currently doing and need to do better to get the big deals?

T: Several pieces of advice that I offer frequently include:

  1. Hunt fewer deals – Companies need to trim their pipelines back to “real deals” rather than deals that are possibly a bad fit or have little not chance of closing. Focus on those deals that have your characteristics.
  2. Change the way you talk about your product or service – Of course it should be framed as a solution. But beyond that, you need to shift from your own language of service, quality and price, to their business problems of time, money and risk.
  3. Hunt heavier – In order to make companies feel more comfortable buying from you, they need to meet your people, see your resources, talk to your alliance partners. Big deals require a bigger team at the table.