4 Techniques for Landing Your Sales Whale

Download Now: Free Sales Plan Template
Aja Frost
Aja Frost



Imagine winning a deal five times bigger than any you’ve closed before. It’s a tantalizing vision -- which is why some reps prioritize high-risk, high-reward prospects.

If you’re not strategic about landing your sales whale, you’ll spend enormous amounts of time and energy on a fruitless endeavor.

These four account-based selling techniques will help you consistently land large accounts.

How to Land a Target Account

1) Look for a Strategic Way In

If you try to prospect into a major account through the same channels as a normal one, you’ll probably be unsuccessful.

Don’t waste your time knocking on doors that won’t open. Your best bet is asking a referral to introduce you to a champion or the decision maker. To find this contact, look through your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter networks. You can also ask the executives at your company if they know anyone at the organization you’re targeting -- they might have a connection you can leverage.

What if your search turns up nothing? Try identifying someone within your target company whom you could help. Maybe you notice they just hired a new head of HR. You could send him an email offering to connect him with your company’s head of HR. Once you’ve formed a relationship, ask for an introduction to your prospect.

Alternatively, use an innovative outreach method to get the decision maker’s attention. Stu Heinecke, author of How to Get a Meeting With Anyone, mails personalized cartoons to prospects he wants to meet. The cartoon features the prospect dealing with a relevant business challenge ... a challenge Heinecke can solve.

You could also try asking your prospect to interview them for a blog post. They’ll probably be flattered, and the interviewing them gives you a chance to build rapport and learn how they think. After the post has gone up, you can ask if they’re dealing with X pain point. Provide some helpful suggestions or unique insights, and you’ll likely earn their ear.

2) Qualify Even More Carefully Than Normal

It’s always important to focus on prospects who can truly benefit from your product, rather than anyone with enough budget to buy it. But qualification is even more crucial when you’re going after a big account.

As HubSpot Channel Sales Manager Greg Fung points out, pursuing “whales” comes with a big opportunity cost.

“In the time it takes to land one major deal, you could have closed five smaller deals,” he explains.

Fung won the second-largest deal in HubSpot’s history. Given the risk of investing so much into a single deal, he was extremely diligent about qualifying his prospect.

“I spent a lot of time upfront with the buyer discussing the potential challenges,” Fung says.

Before he decided whether to work the account, Fung made sure his champion had enough authority to push the deal through. He also needed to know the product was an ideal fit for the company’s needs and objectives.

“If I hadn’t known our solution was what they needed, I wouldn’t have possessed the emotional fortitude to keep trying,” Fung says.

The takeaway? Don’t let visions of your commission blind you to reality. Ask yourself:

  1. Will this organization benefit from my product?
  2. Is it feasible for them to implement my product?
  3. Does my champion have enough influence or authority to purchase my product?
  4. Do they have available funding?

By definition, a whale is bigger than your typical customer. However, in all other respects, the account should match your ideal buyer persona.

3) Look for Creative Ways to Help Your Prospect

If you can find an out-of-the-box way to deliver value, you’ve got a much stronger chance of winning your prospect’s trust and gratitude -- and ultimately, their business.

Because the company Fung was targeting had just completed a massive merger, he asked a current customer who had experience with mergers in the same industry if she’d talk to his prospect.

Providing this value transformed Fung into a trusted advisor.

Later, when Fung gave his prospect a demo, he made the unusual decision to bring along several members of the services team.

“I knew [the prospect] was really attracted to our level of service and support, so I wanted him to meet the people who’d handle his account,” Fung says.

Throughout the sales process, look for ways to go above and beyond. Is your prospect struggling with a specific challenge? It might not have anything to do with your product or even industry, but mine your network for people who have expertise in that domain.

You can also try pulling in a member of your executive team. If the buyer is considering other vendors, she’ll take note of the salesperson who brought along their CTO to the presentation.

An innovative value-add will make you stand out and show your prospect you’re a desirable partner.

4) Assemble a Diverse Team

Four or five heads are better than one, especially when you’re targeting a massive account. In Dealstorming, former Yahoo CSO Tim Sanders discusses the powerful results of bringing together people from across your company to brainstorm ideas.

Sanders recommends including employees from your company’s engineering, design, finance, and marketing teams in your meeting. The “dealstorm” group should range from two or three participants up to 12, depending on the size of the deal and its potential impact on your bottom line.

“The more participants in each one, the more idea flow can get interrupted,” Sanders says. “Be judicious about those who are formally part of the team and try to recruit individual representatives from stakeholder groups.”

Wondering how to successfully recruit your coworkers? They don’t immediately benefit from a close. However, look for individual motivators. For instance, if you’re asking a designer to join the team, you might point out working with this client will boost their design portfolio.

After you’ve assembled your group, send out a brief outlining the nature of the deal, the progress you’ve made (if any), and the challenges you’re facing. Ask your participants to consider a specific question in advance. If you’ve discovered the buyer wants a core feature you’re lacking, you might ask, “What workarounds can we devise for X feature?”

Because every team member can offer different expertise and knowledge, you’re much likelier to develop unique solutions.

Landing a whale requires creativity, resilience, bravery, skill, and luck. But it’s not impossible -- especially if you take advantage of these strategies.

We're committed to your privacy. HubSpot uses the information you provide to us to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.


Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

Powerful and easy-to-use sales software that drives productivity, enables customer connection, and supports growing sales orgs