THE BLOG
12/18/2013 07:10 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

6 Ways Small Businesses Can Do Business With Corporations

In order to create a sustainable small business, you need to secure long-term contracts. One of the best targets for a one-year contract is Fortune 500 companies. I learned a lot about selling to corporate America from a mentor, who once worked as a sales professional focused on business-to-business customers. He sold telecommunications systems and services to large corporations in the highly competitive retail market. Although million dollar deals were common for him, he taught me that the fundamentals of sales are the same when closing any sized deal. Here are six ways small businesses can do business with corporations.

1. Create a relationship with your prospect. If your business is local, face-to-face contact is ideal to build relationships with potential customers. Participate in local business groups, chambers of commerce or social organizations. Take plenty of business cards and ask for them from your potential customers at every opportunity. If your customers are unique and widely dispersed, use industry publications, your website and leverage social media to get attention.

2. Build a foundation of trust with the client. The key decision maker needs to always feel that you have their company's best interest (and the decider's) at heart. Never put the buyer in the position of having to defend why he's buying your product or service.

3. Understand your client's time-frame. One of the most important things in a successful business is to understand the sales cycles. In other words, how long will it typically take you a close a customer? At the top of your to-to list is to understand your target client's time-frame. When will they be ready to buy -- today, next week or next year?

4. Cultivate the client and the client's circle. The bigger the deal, generally the more time it will take to close. The lesson here is that trust takes time. Most importantly, make sure that you are talking to the person that can say actually say yes to the deal. Often, the real decision maker is surrounded by folks who can only say no or recommend your firm.

5. Close the deal. "Press hard, three copies" was the moment of closing the deal and a culmination of all the trust you built. Now you need to be sure to maintain and sustain that client in the years ahead through ongoing communication.

6. Always bring value to the table. There is nothing like a pleasantly surprised customer because you gave them more than they expected. Always over deliver on your basic offer. Little extras can go a long way to build loyalty with a client.

When you look around, you will see many businesses that have succeeded by cultivating trust relationships with their corporate customers. Taking the time to earn trust is a wise investment in your small business. If confidence is lost, you could see your customer run, not walk right into the arms of your competition. Go for the relationship, not just the contract.

How did your small business recently close a corporate deal?

This article originally published under the title How a Small Business Can Sell to Corporate America at www.succeedasyourownboss.com

Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady, is America's #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business startup, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9 p.m. ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works and the ebook: How To Become A Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.