Aim Small to Sell Big

How to use famous quotes to sell your biggest customers


Let me start by throwing a few quotes at you and then we will try to make sense of their conflicting message:

  • “Think Big to Be Big!” – Herb Tarlek, WKRP in Cincinnati TV show from the ’70s. Also quoted by many salespeople trying to convince their sales manager to allow something…reduced price, expense account approval, etc.
  • “Aim small, Miss Small!” Mel Gibson in the movie Patriot.  Telling his kids how to aim and shoot at enemy soldiers.
  • “I’m not good at calling on the large customers. They intimidate me.”  Said by many salespeople that truly discuss their strengths and weaknesses with me.

It’s this last quote that ties into the first two quotes.  Too often, I find salespeople are fearful of the large accounts in their market.  They feel inadequate about calling on those large accounts due to several reasons;

  • “What if I’m bothering them.”
  • “I don’t want to go there until I’m more technically sound in my product line”
  • “How could I possibly tell them how to farm, or manufacture or sell Ag products? After all, they know more than we do!”
  • Even if I was able to sell them, we might not be able to produce enough to keep them in product or serve their entire needs.”


Let me give you a few of my own quotes and views on this situation to help you gain some perspective.

  • “Never in the nearly 30 years of working with customers have I ever been involved in a large account switching all of their business over to me or my company in one move. Never”
  • “I’m not intimidated by large accounts, but I would be fearful and feel reckless at switching a large account in one sale or one major move.”
  • “You are matching your business model into a large-scale customer’s operational system. Going too fast can actually be more detrimental than too slow.”
  • “Selling the largest accounts is a marathon! No, more than that, It’s an Ironman (dropping the hint that I did both of those recently.)”


With all of these quotes and views, I want to emphasize the care that you should take when selling a large account.  Typically, they have a large operating system around your product line.  They have been getting by without you for a long time.  Trying to go in and shoot for the stars by switching all of their current business to you, might be the worst thing you can aim for.  First, it’s riskier than selling a little piece of business to them.  If the buyer is smart, they are going to feel this risk and delay buying from you versus if you had gone after a small part of their business.

Pick your strongest product line or uncover that large account’s greatest need for improvement in their business.  If the two of those things are the same, you have found a great spot to be in.  Your strength area matching up to their biggest need equals an easy first success.  I like to call this, “getting a toe hold”.  Work on being the best at that toe hold product or service.  Make it easy for the many people in the prospect’s business that have to work with you as a vendor.

Now, you and your prospect can feel confident in awarding you more business.

Whether salespeople will admit it or not, we get intimidated by the large accounts.  We are worried that a large account is “So busy” that we would be interrupting them, appear salesy and not take our appointment.  Maybe.  However, my guess is that prospect got big by listening, learning and considering different avenues of operating their business.  Our job as salespeople is to find out how to either bring something new and of interest to this person or learn about how to match up your system with theirs.  Often times, the large accounts aren’t necessarily looking to be extremely scientific or technical in their approach.  Their challenges might be more logistical than technical.  They worry about running out of inventory or not being able to keep up during their busy times around planting, harvest, holiday production times, etc.

These are areas that you can learn about and provide potential solutions without being the greatest animal or crop nutritionist.  You just have to be good at digging in and finding solutions that are needed.  What to look for?  Look beyond the immediate product and services you provide.  Some great areas to consider: ordering process, lead times, freight to them, freight to their customer if they resell, warehousing, inventory management, further services to their customers, joining forces with one of their other vendors.  The list goes on and on of non-technical areas that large accounts have more or different requirements for.

There is one last, critical component of selling a large account.  Many of them are proud of their status as being large.  Not all, but many are.  They often times have fully functioning web sites, publish to multiple social media outlets, put out press releases, have newsletters, etc.  Please don’t embarrass yourself by going in to sell this account without doing your homework.  Educating their vendors on who they are is probably one of the lowest priorities for a large account.  Educating vendors on how to do business with them is different than educating a vendor on who they are.  So, go do your homework before calling on them.  With social media, it’s never been easier than it is today.  Along with the obvious of searching the company postings on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and their own company website, look a little further.  Where has the owner, CEO or VP of sales spoken recently?  What were their topics and their views on those topics?  What associations do they belong to? And what are the goals, views, and struggles of that association?

Armed with all of this background info from doing your homework and the knowledge you have of your products, services, and industry, you should be confident enough to at least turn down the driveway of that megalopolis, Wal-Mart-size dairy, beef, row crop producer, or agribusiness and start a conversation to establish a toe hold.  Remember, it only takes a few seconds of confidence to turn that steering wheel.  That’s the hard part.  Once you do, you’ll be fine.  Don’t wait to be smarter, faster, cheaper or anything else.  That day may never come.  You’re ready right now!

“How do I start the conversation?  What do I say?” you might ask.  Please call me and we’ll discuss some coaching options to help you.


For more information on Ag sales training, coaching or business development, contact Greg Martinelli at Ag Sales Professionals, LLC at (608) 751-6971. Email is  Web site is

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