Small business owners and entrepreneurs are forever asking how they can make more money selling to large organisations. And yet, 70% of those same business owners also refuse to sell to a specific corporate niche.
They worry that if they pick one industry to sell to, that they’ll actively ‘cut off’ any other types of company – and lose revenue. But the reality is, that not choosing a corporate niche (and becoming the go-to specialist) loses way more revenue and makes it much harder to run an effective sales process.
So if you’re ready to increase your revenue and make your sales life easier? Read on…
What is a corporate niche?
A corporate niche is a fancy term for ‘industry’. Simply, picking a corporate niche means choosing an industry that you really want to work with – and working with organisations who operate in that industry. There are hundreds of industries that you can sell to as a small business owner – but some of the most well known are;
- Advertising/ Media/ Digital Marketing (including advertising agencies, cool digital media companies – usually based in Shoreditch 😉 , mainstream media companies like newspapers/ magazines etc.)
- Financial Services (including retail banks, asset management firms, hedge funds, private equity firms, insurance companies, wealth management companies)
- FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods – think about products that fly off the shelves. Some of my favourite brands include; Bacardi, Coca Cola, L’Oreal and Garnier. Which says a lot about my buying habits!)
- Pharmaceutical (companies that make / sell/ research medicines and prescription drugs)
- Technology (including FinTech firms, SaaS companies and e-commerce businesses)
- Retail (high street brands, luxury fashion… any company that you can purchase from in a retail setting)
- Public Sector (organisations that are publicly funded. Usually central/ local government run – like police forces, NHS Trusts, Central Government agencies, local councils)
- Not for Profit (companies that are run to support key causes or learning such as charities, membership organisations and supplementary educational establishments.)
Most people can identify companies that operate in the industries above – and most people are fiercely loyal to the brands that they use. It’s also common to see people working within those industries as employees, who’ve actively chosen to work in that industry because they particularly like the products/ services/ work culture. So don’t be surprised when you choose a niche, to see stakeholders who’ve worked for a few of your target companies!
Why choose a niche at all?
It’s easy to think that if you start narrowing down your audience – and being intentional about the types of companies you work with, that you’ll lose revenue and not be able to sell to as many organisations. But the reality is, that choosing a niche will help you to;
- Become a specialist – and close more deals.
- Generate more inbound leads – and generate more sales without having to do so much work.
And let’s face it – who doesn’t like either of those two things?!
Becoming a specialist and working within a particular industry, means that you get to know that industry really well. Knowing an industry well means that you’re able to understand problems quicker, identify trends and create / tailor solutions to the problems that impact those particular companies. Ultimately? That leads to you being able to show up to business development calls in a confident way, being able to add value through the insights you’re able to share about the market and helps establish you as a credible, consultative partner that the organisation would be lucky to work with.
But becoming an industry specialist does more than just position you credibly and confidently on sales calls… it also gives you the ability to generate way more inbound leads through word of mouth referrals and break into new companies when stakeholders move.
Think about it.
As I said earlier, most people choose to work in specific industries because they’re genuinely interested in the products/ services or work cultures. So if they work for one company and decide to leave? It’s highly likely that they’ll go to another company operating in the same industry! Which means you’ve got a built in point of contact who already knows, likes and trust you – who’s now working in another one of your target companies. Easy sell right?
Most stakeholders also know their peer group through networking/ previously working together/ professional memberships or networks – and will often recommend good external suppliers to one another. So if you deliver well for one organisation, it’s likely that another will reach out to you to help with similar work/ projects – because they’ll hear on the corporate grapevine that you’re the best person for the job!
Meaning that you can stop the endless content creation and posting ‘clickbait’ pictures of your cat on LinkedIn to try and get engagement… because you’ll be generating a steady stream of leads from referral sources!
It also really benefits the stakeholders and companies that you start working with. For them, working with an industry specialist makes their lives a lot easier – and usually impacts the buying decision in key ways.
Why being an industry specialist really benefits your corporate clients
Think about a problem that you’re having in your business right now. In fact – let’s take this problem that you currently have.
You’re thinking about whether or not you need to specialise in a corporate niche or not. Most likely, because you’re not happy with your existing sales process – or the revenue that you’re generating. Perhaps your sales process feels overwhelming, confusing or you’re just finding it difficult to generate the stream of corporate clients that you want.
When you started looking for advice? You didn’t go and look for marketing blogs. Or podcasts from paid traffic specialists. You didn’t read social media posts from wellness professionals to see what they thought about choosing a corporate niche.
You found a specialist.
And not just a sales specialist either. Because a sales consultant could have helpful information on selling to companies… but it might not be the topic that they spend all day, every day talking about.
You sought out a specialist who only teaches small business owners and entrepreneurs how to sell to corporate companies. Because you knew that a specialist would be more likely to;
- Know your questions and hear them regularly from other people just like you.
- Be able to give you clear, defined and relevant information that is based on industry knowledge and clear expertise.
- Point you in the right direction of resources that could help you – and potentially other information or questions that you haven’t currently considered, that could also be helpful.
- Share relevant market insights and trends that you can use to help in other areas of your B2B sales process.
Only a specialist will be able to effectively support you in diagnosing problems, create clear solutions and give current market insights, trends and recommendations.
It doesn’t mean that other people can’t use the information. But it does mean that it’s even more useful to the ideal person that it was originally created for.
Imagine for example, that you’re on a plane. Someone is choking in the row in front of you – and the air steward uses the tannoy to ask if there’s a doctor onboard to help someone who’s choking.
Most doctors can help someone who’s choking. So let’s assume that a GP / general practitioner is onboard to help.
But imagine that you’re sitting on a plane and someone starts complaining of chest pains… and passes out. The air steward might call for a doctor – but what they really want? Is a cardiac specialist. Someone who can support this person and keep their heart beating until the pilot is able to land.
(To be clear, we can safely assume that both of these fictional people make it off of these hellish flights safely.)
I want you to think about how much those doctors get paid.
They’d both take the title of doctor.
But the GP? Gets paid on average 35% less than the cardiac specialist.
The heart after all, is a relatively small muscle. And the GP would have to assess the whole person in a surgery.
But the cardiac specialist has spent years honing their diagnostic skills; focusing specifically on one tiny (but major!) organ. They’ve put in hundreds of thousands of hours of practice, to specifically diagnose, treat and operate on one particular muscle. Developing their skills, practicing regularly and being able to share information and new skills with other surgeons.
You might not be saving lives with your specialist skill/ services.
But working solely with one industry, will give you the ability to really support stakeholders and companies with a level of expertise and depth that they might not find from other small business owners/ entrepreneurs with similar skills.
You’ll be able to;
- Accurately diagnose the problems that they’ll likely be experiencing – because you understand the specific challenges that their industry is facing
- Recommend solutions or resources that are designed to help their company – and work well within the industry.
- Share industry knowledge, news and insights that make it much easier for stakeholders to make key decisions quickly.
- Network more effectively – and introduce stakeholders to other peers that they may not know within their industry.
- Hold industry specific events that help to share knowledge/ overcome common problems and bring key players together.
- Answer questions in a knowledgeable way – and use industry insights and information to help back up your points.
In short, being an industry expert helps your stakeholders to ensure that they’re getting the best solutions for their company, relevant market insights and building their network of credible experts… which saves a lot of time and helps them do their job in more efficient and effective ways.
How to choose a niche
So now you’re thinking, Well Jess – this sounds great! Of course I want to help my stakeholders, give them more value, share insights and make more money. I want to pick a niche!
But also…. How do I do that? And How do I know that it’ll be the right niche for me?
A lot of salespeople make choosing a corporate niche much harder than it needs to be. Inside The C Suite ® however, we like to keep things simple – and focus time and energy on the bigger (and often more important!) decisions.
The niche you choose now does not have to be forever.
(Want me to say it again for those of you in the back?)
The niche you choose now does not have to be your ‘forever’ niche.
You don’t have to choose an industry now (particularly if this is the first time you’ve decided to niche down) and think that it’ll be the industry that you work with for the next year. Or five years. Or even ten years and beyond.
I tell my clients to focus on 90 day sprints.
- Pick a niche
- Run with it for 90 days.
- Book (and hold) business development calls, work through sales processes and sell solutions.
- Deliver solutions
And then you can debrief and assess;
- Whether you actually enjoy working with that industry
- Whether the business development calls are interesting/ easy to get/ run with people that you like.
- How the sales process feels – and whether it’s enjoyable, fun and rewarding.
- The way that companies react to you and your products/ services; whether they value them and implement quickly.
You only find out if you like an industry by running at least one full sales process through it.
So whichever niche you pick?
You’re only choosing to work on for 90 days.
And if you get to the end of 90 days and like it? Great… carry on.
If you don’t/ find it too difficult to gain traction/ dislike the conversations or sales process? You can pick another – no harm, no foul.
Now that we’ve taken the ‘forever’ pressure off… how can we choose that initial niche and make our lives easier?
- Think about things you like outside of your business. What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy? Shopping? Fashion? Travel? Music? Magazines? Watching documentaries about emergency medical procedures? Make a list.
- Assign them to an industry e.g. Shopping would be part of the Retail industry, as would Fashion.
- Pick one.
When I was working in corporate sales and started my first job, you didn’t get to pick your industry. But when you got more experienced (and if you specialised in new business development like me!) you could take opportunities to build brand new markets.
I was obsessed with fashion when I first moved to London… and would spend hours walking up and down Regents Street, looking in shop windows at brands that I’d never heard of – but loved on sight. So when I was offered the opportunity to build a new business division in an area that I wanted to focus on?
I picked Luxury Fashion.
Not retail… but high-end, luxury fashion brands. Think, Mulberry, LVMH, Chanel…
(Also – pretty sure that some of my client meetings were held with me in a dodgy pair of trainers after hopping off the tube. I was a great disappointment to the fashion world personally – but had a blast selling there.)
It really is as simple as that.
Take a moment – and pick your 90 day industry… and then scroll down so that I can answer some common questions for you.
Is there really a ‘money-making’ niche?
If you’re asking your screen whether or not there’s one particular niche that will guarantee you make more money than any other niche regardless of your sales skills, product/ service that you sell and whether or not companies have that issue in that niche?
(And also – if you’re tired of reading now and want to head out for a walk, I also covered this off in a lot of detail over on the Selling to Podcast just here: https://sellingtocorporate.com/stc009-is-there-a-money-making-corporate-niche/ – feel free to wander and listen to my dulcet tones.)
The short and simple answer here is that there is no such thing as a ‘money-making’ niche.
There are certain times when certain niches may have more money to spend / may be investing more in external suppliers, but to base your entire business model on that? Would be a very unwise and reactive way to run your business.
Every person who’s ever sold B2B (business to business) in a professional capacity will tell you that there’s not one ‘better’ industry to sell to. In fact, during my first year in corporate sales? I was working on a Public Sector and Not for Profit desk.
Everyone teased me… Oh, there’s no money to be made there!
Clients used to tell me… We don’t have lots of money – we’re a charity/ university/ council/ etc
But they did.
And as my mentor at the time shared with me;
They’ll always find money for the services that they want, need and will make a difference.
Instead of worrying about what other salespeople were telling me… or what clients were saying about budgets (it’s all relative after all!), I focused on providing the best possible service, being the trusted advisor and specialist… and hey presto!
Got tons of referrals.
And to this day, I still have people who approach me from that time period to ask if I can help them.
Sales is about relationships… being that trusted advisor and consultative salesperson so that you can really understand the key problems and solve them – whilst generating significant revenue/ profit.
But of course, there’ll always be someone who’ll tell you that the ‘next big industry will be…’
(Much like there’s always someone who’ll start a debate about Bitcoin…)
Don’t worry about it. Choose a niche that you’re genuinely interested in – and you’ll build better relationships, generate faster leads and make more revenue consistently.
What’s the difference between a corporate niche and ‘low hanging fruit’?
Great question! So – most people who decide to start selling to corporate organisations will have some kind of ‘low hanging fruit’ (existing personal/ professional relationships that they can leverage to start working quickly with companies.) but there’s a big difference between choosing your long term corporate niche and using your existing relationships to help generate immediate or short-term revenue.
Existing personal or professional relationships can be leveraged (in a non-sleazy way!) to generate referrals to other businesses or to help you get an ‘in’ with a company who needs your services but is not necessarily in your ideal target market.
Choosing your niche, is about making the strategic decision to specialise within an industry so that you can win both short and long term business, become known in that space for being an expert and generate consistent and steady inbound leads within that niche.
How choosing a niche will help you make more sales
Choosing a niche really will help you generate more revenue in a quicker timeframe.
When I first started out working in the corporate world, I was surprised to see large sales teams, segmented into clear industries and disciplines and remember asking my director why that was.
He said simply;
“We make more money being specialists than generalists”
And then went about his day.
Now – that answer did help me a little to understand that it was an integral way of working and that I needed to do what they told me – because they were paying my bills! But I think it’s also helpful to understand why a niche / specialising within an industry is so important for creating quick sales and embedding your opportunities.
- It makes your sales calls easier (and higher converting!) By becoming an industry and discipline specialist, you’re able to easily and quickly identify key conversation threads or common links across the business development calls you have. That means that your calls become easier – and you’re able to share better industry knowledge and insights (nothing confidential though!) to help a stakeholder understand your credibility, commitment to the industry and own skills/ expertise. The reality is, that being an industry and discipline specialist, reduces the time you need to spend on business development calls, increases your trust / credibility with the client, helps you add value without falling into ‘free consulting’ or having to justify your credentials.
- You generate inbound leads quicker. Think about the last time you asked a friend what the best type of ‘pet hoover’ or ‘compression socks’ were (sidenote: pretty big insight into the glam conversations I’m having with my pals right there!) They immediately gave you a recommendation right? This happens in the corporate world all the time. People move to new jobs – and recommend suppliers that they’ve worked with previously. Peers network together – and share supplier information. Organisations have multiple operating companies… and will recommend suppliers internally. And finally? All organisations want to hire the specialist for both their industry and niche… so they’ll actively seek out suppliers with the right expertise and industry knowledge. Specialising in both industry and discipline, increases your word of mouth/ referral traffic, makes it easier for you to approach organisations within your niche proactively and (depending on what kind of content you choose to create,) can flag inbound leads for you too!
- You’re able to focus solely on your expertise – and generate affiliate / referral revenue with ease. One of the things that I miss most about working in a large sales organisation? Selling cross-discipline. People often make assumptions about salespeople – and one of the most common, is that they’re so competitive within organisations, that they won’t refer the right solution to the client. Whilst it can be true – there are a lot of organisations who recognise that having salespeople work in specific industries/ disciplines in a collaborative way, actually helps them to make more money with cross-discipline referrals and extra sales. Entrepreneurs can do this too! Participants inside The C Suite ® are always referring business to one another – and it means that the organisations that they’re working with always end up with the best solutions to meet their needs and participants are usually either generating regular referrals or being paid affiliate fees for making successful introductions!
- It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If you’ve ever heard this phrase… you’ll know that there’s a degree of truth there. When you target a specific industry, you get to know most of the key stakeholders very quickly… and that means that it’s much easier to build relationships with colder leads – simply because you’re able to talk about other people you know/ admire / have worked with in that industry. It helps you to develop rapport quickly – and can make it much easier to close the sale.
So if you haven’t already chosen your niche and know that you need to? What next?
If you’ve read this far? Then I’m assuming that you’re now chomping at the bit to become an industry specialist! (I would also pop some confetti at this point but I’m somewhat limited by technology… ) If you’ve decided that you’re going to trust our proven process, then you’ve got a couple of steps ahead of you to make it simple and successful.
- Pick your niche. Remember, we’re choosing an industry to work on for 90 days – not forever. Don’t get bogged down in your decision. Keep it simple and choose an industry that you’re genuinely interested in.
- Map your market within that niche. Sit down and identify the key stakeholders you need to be having conversations with. (If you’re not sure how to correctly map your market? Check out our Converting Corporates Virtual Bundle – we give you everything you need to know about market and stakeholder mapping in there plus key trackers, a proven LinkedIn lead generation strategy and more!)
- Take action. Start proactively generating leads and getting those conversations booked in and taking place. Monitor your metrics to make sure that you’re tracking your progress – and if you want to be successful straight off the bat? Check out our Converting Corporates Virtual Bundle to get access to our proven LinkedIn Lead Generation Strategy, Business Development Call Structure and more.
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