Penetrating Large Accounts

Recently, a long-time client asked me a question about penetrating large accounts.

He was talking about how they’re currently working with one location, trying to penetrate a second and then realizing that there are actually many more locations. So the question is “what’s the best way to penetrate a large account?”

Many of us sell to companies that have more than one person who can buy our products. Some of those people might be in the same department as our client. Some might be in different departments. Some might even be in different divisions, locations or related companies.

In all of these cases, I’d like to make a recommendation that I would encourage you to follow with every contact you do business with. It’s very simple and very powerful, and it’s entirely based on internal referrals.

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Ask each of your existing contacts who they know 1.) in their own department, 2.) in other departments in their own location, then 3.) in other locations, who either buy or influence the buying decision. Then ask for an introduction to that person.

When I say it like this, it sounds like you're asking too much, but don't worry, you can do it a little at a time.

Of course, if you already know you're dealing with a business that has just one location, you can leave out the "other location" reference, but still ask about other people in their own department and other departments.

Let me give you a simple example of how this works.

Years ago, I was dealing with the marketing director at a local bank. It was a good account, and I was doing a decent volume of business with them. One afternoon, I was visiting my contact and noticed she essentially worked in a "cubicle farm."

There were lots of other people in her department who appeared to be doing all sorts of different things. So I asked her, "who else in your department buys promotional products?"

I got lucky. She mentioned the name of her manager and offered to introduce me to her. Of course, if she hadn't offered, I would have asked, but this made it much easier.

On the way out, my contact introduced me to her manager, who was willing to take a few moments to talk with me. I'm sure this only happened because of the way we were introduced. It's not like she would have met with me if I had just shown up on her doorstep.

During the conversation, I asked her, "who else in your department buys promotional products," and she told me about a third person who also did some buying. Theoretically, my initial contact could have told me about this person, but maybe she didn't know. In any event, this simple question tripled the number of people I was in touch with in just that department.

I'm a slow learner, so when it occurred to me, weeks later, that this was just one department, I started asking my contacts who else they knew in other departments. This lead to some new contacts and additional business in the executive division.

Since that experience, I made it a point to repeat that process with every contact I came in touch with. Who else in your department buys? Who do you know in other departments who buy? And, can you introduce me to them?

Oh, it's also important you never assume you know the answer to this. I've been in small companies where I've asked the question and they laughed at me. "No, we're a small company. I'm the only buyer." I've been in other small companies where they've said, "oh yeah, Tricia buys too. Hey Tricia, come over here."

Three Steps to Fully Penetrate Large Accounts

  1. Ask Each of Your Existing Contacts: Who they know in their own department, in other departments and in other divisions or locations, who buys or influences the buying decision.
  2. Ask for an introduction to those people.
  3. Repeat this Process with every single contact you make within the organization.

NOTE: This approach is deceptively simple, but highly effective. The most critical part is to repeat it with each contact you make.

The most critical part of this process, is to repeat it with each person you come in contact with.

It's a terrible analogy, but the goal is to spread yourself throughout the organization like a virus.

Viruses spread from cell to cell, organ to organ and system to system. Similarly, you want to spread from person to person within a department, then jump to other departments and do the same thing. Then jump to other divisions, locations and related businesses. It's always person to person. It's always one-on-one, and it's an approach that you replicate, like a virus.

Think of it as a healthy virus. A happy virus. A virus that actually helps people. Then spread it to everyone you encounter.

If you're tired of flat or declining sales and losing business to your competitors, be sure to check out my latest web presentation entitled Programming Clients to Choose You. Who are your very best prospects currently programmed to buy from? Is it you or someone else? If you want it to be, you, visit and register for the free presentation now. That's

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    6 replies to "How to Penetrate Large Accounts"

    • Paul Salooja

      Interesting and useful. Worth trying

      • David Blaise

        Glad you found it helpful, Paul. Thanks for your feedback.

    • Samuel

      Good information. Keep it coming!

      • David Blaise

        Will do. If there are any particular questions you have or topics you would like to see covered, be sure to let us know.

    • Bob Branson

      So true! Just last week I was working with a large account on a re-brand. I always believed everything went through their marketing director and then to me. However, we discovered three different departments had ordered on line for a total of $22,000!

      When we found out, I was able to unhook the orders and get them placed with us. When I questioned the marketing director relative to why they were ordering on line, she said that is my problem, not hers. I should have been doing what you suggested all along.

      • David Blaise

        You raised a great point here, Bob. Very often, we think of penetrating existing accounts as a “some day” activity. But your example points out why it’s probably a better idea to make it a “right now” activity!

        Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you found this recommendation helpful.

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