So You Want To Catch A Whale?

Table of Contents

Blog by Andrew Milbourn

CEO of Kiss the Fish Ltd and Chairman of Kiss the Fish Training Ltd

How to punch above your weight and win the big fish – The things you should consider before diverting your sales team from their day-to-day efforts.

Strap yourself in; here is some essential guidance before setting off on your next “Whale” fishing trip…

So you’ve realized there are some big potential customers you may not have bothered with up until now? And it has occurred to you that you should be pitching to these ‘people’ because,..’ why not?” eh? Someone’s got to supply them, and it might as well be your business….OR you may already be offering up “Tenders” every now and again but not really winning any…

So let’s look at what is required to avoid huge amounts of time and money being wasted by your organization.

Apart from the obvious low pricing requirements – Corporates (the Whales you are hunting) have always been concerned about their public image and the prices they charge. Most will be PLC (public or private investor driven) and, as such, has a set of largely unwritten compliance needs that make their board sweat more than we appreciate. I spent 4.5 years sitting on the main operational board of a PLC, and believe me, the ‘non-commercial’ conversations our board concerned itself with were truly shocking. All of this, of course, is related to ‘public opinion’ and brand popularity. No business wants any ‘negative press’, which may result if a business is associated with not being on the right side of public & political opinion…and so it goes. Another important factor to consider is that we are talking about complicated buying structures and, therefore, ‘complex sales’, which usually involve multiple stakeholders with multiple needs.

So, before you even start to fill out a tender document – amongst the requirements you’ll need to consider are HR policy and, in particular equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion, environmental policy, IT security, CSR, etc. It is quite a list; however, it’s not all bad news if you are financially secure. Although it is rarely openly admitted, we know from client interviews that we conduct that financial security (not going bust anytime soon) is essential to all procurement decisions.

All that considered, have you read enough to really want to bother trying to catch a Whale?

If you still are saying ‘yes” (and I hope you are), here’s what you must look at to be in the game…

PEOPLE – Are your sales team capable of acting with authority and good at building trust externally and building social capital with anyone?

PLANNING – Do you have a ‘customer curious’ process that investigates stakeholder complexity and competitive advantage from the customer’s point of view?  Can you continually feed ‘insights rather than just information to the stakeholders at different levels?

VALUE – Are you aware of how much benefit your product or service will generate for your potential customer(s)? Can you build a value proposition that proves that you make your potential clients more money and more successful? Are you confident of how you are seen against your competitive set and why a smaller company (your business) can and should beat the bigger supplier businesses?”

STORYTELLING – Can you write an ‘interesting tender’? And make an interesting pitch? It’s all down to storytelling and clever English language use. If you haven’t thought about this, then talk to an expert – get someone to write your documents who knows how to write – not just one of the team who did well in English at school.

Are you and the team capable of handling the best buyers? Do you have a robust negotiation strategy and capability? There is a real danger that your business will be used to beat down others’ prices unless you have advanced negotiation capability.

TIME – Can your business afford the time required to divert resources away from the core revenue drivers?

RESOURCES – Have you considered the demands a ‘Whale’ will make regarding support and service? Or even the resource you’ll need to ‘sideline’ in order to be at your first pitch?

How does your business stack up against the above list? Still interested but not that confident about how you should prepare your business? Our advice would be don’t just go for the biggest three or four in your market-  look at who is in the ‘middle tier’, bigger than your average customer but not the biggest…who do you have contact with? or can you manufacture contact with easily? 

Every pitch requires a ‘coach’ working for you within the business you wish to pitch. You may well need two years of work before you are seriously in with a chance of winning a ‘big one’, but a reality check will be necessary, and it is better to air on the side of caution rather than to start budgeting for £500K added from one client in next years budget.  Stretch yourselves but don’t be unrealistic.

The way forward – so what to do next if you want to win more business and catch a few big ones?

Kiss the Fish Ltd is well equipped to help you in various ways, and we will increase your chances of winning the bigger fish by adding expertise and process to your team in all of the areas in the list above.


We offer a flexible approach where you control the budget, not a fixed contract that ties your funds down for any lengthy period of time.  You can have one of our experts for a day or a week, a month or a year; it’s totally up to you, and doesn’t worry, we won’t oversell – honesty is one of our core values.

We would love to help you and your team be the best you can be, so get in touch with one of the regional heads of KTF for a no-obligation discussion in which we will offer some insights which we know will prove helpful.

Andrew Milbourn, CEO

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