As a small business, you might feel like throwing a party after closing your first few deals with large organizations. And you should! You’ve navigated some challenging circumstances to get here.

But your sales job isn’t done, so don’t close the books just yet.

There are two major things you should expect after the deal is done…


1. Nurturing Is Needed — and It’s Not So Straightforward

Nurturing likely isn’t new to you. Even small-business customers need nurturing to maintain a healthy relationship over time. With your smaller customers, you might even have a personal relationship with them. Maybe you meet them for coffee now and then, or you have regular check-in calls to catch up.

Nurturing an enterprise relationship, however, may have a few more twists and turns than you’re used to. Employees of large and enterprise companies have to be a bit more careful about the relationships they build with vendors. Getting too close with you may put them in a compromising position where they’re seen as giving work to a friend instead of the most suitable supplier.

Your enterprise customer may even have specific policies around the types of relationships employees can have with outside vendors. For this reason alone, your customer may be less likely to want to form a close, personal relationship with you.

So how do you nurture an enterprise customer relationship? In my experience, the best way to do that is to continue to be extraordinarily valuable to them.

No, I’m not talking about throwing in extra products or services for free (though I’m definitely not knocking that idea).

Two ways I think small businesses can provide extra value are:

  1. Paying attention to what’s going on in your customer’s business and providing relevant suggestions
  2. Asking for feedback and suggestions about your product or services (instead of waiting for it to be offered)

Making suggestions to your customer shows that you care about their success, and that you’re thinking about them even when you’re not being paid to do so. Instead of waiting for your customer to come to you, think about useful suggestions you can give them (whether or not it might lead to paid work) that might make their lives easier.

And if you can’t think of a specific business suggestion to send over, send them an article you found that they might like!

Asking for feedback is useful, too, in that it can give you insight into things you can fix especially for them. You probably already have a process to ask them how the first week with the new software went or asking them which color product ended up being their favorite. But how often do you ask how your 'Account Management' services are working for them? Or are they happy with the speed with which you deliver updates to them? These sorts of questions can help to identify improvments you can make in your business that your customer might otherwise feel uncomfortable about bringing up with you.

A note on gifts

Another nurturing tactic that most small-businesses are familiar with is gift-giving. I want to address this here because it’s extremely tricky with enterprise customers, and I suggest you steer clear of them completely. Giving an enterprise employee a gift has a couple of gotchas:

  1. It might be seen as a bribe, no matter how well-intentioned you are. Most enterprises have a policy about gifts from vendors, and generally anything over about $50 will need to be recorded. In some cases, those gifts have to be handed in for distribution. You can see how awkward this could be for your customer.

  2. Individual gifts may feel inappropriate to your customer if they feel like they’re not the only one that worked with you. If their team members or colleagues were involved, but you only gave a gift to this one person, it can feel icky for the recipient.

If you feel you absolutely must give your enterprise customer a gift, give them something under $50 that can be shared — like candy or a gift basket.


2. Your Policies May Be Up for Review

This may feel like an odd place to talk about your company policies, but hear me out.

There’s a chance your policies will come up during the sales conversation, but if they do, it’s generally pretty late into the process. (This makes your policies more of a formality rather than something that could derail the deal.)

If this wasn’t discussed before you start working together, there’s a very good chance you’ll see that request for your policies come through after the deal is done. You’ll want to be prepared so you’re not scrambling when that request emerges.

Common policy documents you might be expected to provide

The most common policies you’ll be asked for as a small business include:

  • Health and Safety Policy: This document outlines how you maintain a safe and healthy working environment for your staff, contractors and visitors. Even if you don't have an office, you'll still need this policy at some point. It’s one of the most common policies requested by large organizations.

  • Code of Conduct: This policy covers your expectations for the behavior of anyone representing your company…even if your company is just you. The enterprise will want to know that you have stated rules around acting with integrity and adhering to the law, without conflict of interest, and your expectations around confidentiality.

  • Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery: This document addresses how your business will respond in the event of a natural, civil, cyber or reputational disaster. It should also include the steps you’d take to get your business back up and running.

  • ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) Policy: This document covers how you will maintain the cybersafety of your work environment. For example, can your staff conduct business from their personal devices, and if so, how will you manage the customer’s information on those devices? Depending on your business, this may be a pretty short document — or a very comprehensive one.

  • Document / Records Retention Policy: This comes up only in certain industries, but it’s critical in the industries that are concerned with it. This policy notes the record retention responsibilities of everyone who might be working on the enterprise project (staff, contractors, volunteers, board members, etc.). It will include details around how everyone will maintain and document the storage and destruction of the customer’s documents and records.

I suggest you ask peers or colleagues if there are policies specific to your industry that you could realistically be expected to have in place.

For example, in the SaaS world, we’re also expected to provide:

  • Access Control Policy: This covers how we establish controls that prevent unauthorized access to our systems.

  • Incident Management Process: Separate from the disaster recovery policy, this one outlines how we will respond to a range of incidents that could possibly occur in our software and that would affect our customers.

  • IT Asset Control & Disposal Policy: This addresses what should happen when or if we decide to dispose of or sell our owned devices (think smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.) to ensure no private information leaves the business. Because we have so many devices in our office for testing our software, we found needed a standard plan for how they are tracked.


Uncommon policies — and what to do when you’re surprised by a request

Every once in a while, you might be asked for a policy no small business would realistically have in place.

Two examples we’ve encountered here at Showcase include an “anti-bribery policy” and an “ethical purchasing policy.” While we have a clause in our Code of Conduct around bribery, it never made sense for us to create a whole policy around it — but it makes sense that a large enterprise dealing with a lot of money and thousands of staff would be concerned with bribery and corruption. As for ethical purchasing, I understand why an enterprise would want to know that certain standards are adhered to through their whole supply chain — but again, this doesn’t really come up in our business, so we had no formal policy around it.

If you’re asked to provide policies like these, it’s perfectly okay to say something like “At the age and stage of our business, this isn’t a matter that we have needed to address with a specific policy. However, we are willing to adhere to the guidelines in your policy.”

How to write a company policy

The idea of writing a policy may seem less appealing than being trapped in an elevator with a rabid chimpanzee, but it’s a level of business maturity you’ll need to get to if you’re serious about working with large and enterprise companies for the long term.

Most importantly, though, these policies also protect you.

Most of your core policies will address processes for dealing with issues that arise. Think of these policies as roadmaps to resolving common problematic situations — especially situations that arise when employees deviate from or disregard the policy. Having your staff read and sign these policies helps you avoid any potential employment disputes based on arguments like “That wasn’t made clear to me.”

When we first created our policies here at Showcase, we drafted them ourselves to save cost. We searched the internet and read other similar policies, then decided which parts were relevant and sensible for our business. We pulled those bits together and then sent them to our lawyer for review.

Times have changed, though, and today you might be able to find pre-made policy templates online. Or if you have a lawyer on retainer, you might have them draft this up for you and save yourself the hassle.

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Enterprise Sales

I can’t believe it, but we’re now officially at the end of the Small Fish, Big Fish article series!

It’s been quite a ride. Thanks for listening to me babble on about how much I love doing business with large and enterprise companies.

Get the whole series in my free e-book: Small Fish, Big Fish: A small-business guide to selling to large and enterprise companies

Or read past articles in the Small Fish, Big Fish series: