Do you sell to customers, or do customers sell for you? That’s one of the questions posed by David Thomson in his book Blueprint to a Billion: 7 Essentials to Achieve Exponential Growth (John Wiley & Sons, 2006). The reason he asks this question: America’s most successful businesses can trace the beginnings of their success to the clinching of a few big-name customers who liked that company’s solution and told others about it. These Marquee Customers, as Thomson calls them, are like the booster stage on a rocket going into orbit: they supercharge revenue growth. And they are a critical component of any blueprint for sales growth.
The secret to exponential sales growth “is not just the number of transactions a company completes; it is not even just selling hard,” explains Thomson. “Rather, it is securing deep relationships with a limited number of valued customers who become the rising tide for exponential revenue growth.” Cisco, for example, got a contract with Boeing that led to a contract with Motorola that led to its biggest customer, Solomon Brothers. Microsoft’s Marquee Customer was IBM, which launched the small upstart on its trajectory of success when it made MS-DOS the standard operating system on its PCs. Those Marquee Customers gave these vendors instant status and credibility, which they used as a springboard to greatness.
Think you can achieve stellar sales growth without these kinds of relationships? Think again. As Ron Markezich, Microsoft’s chief information officer (CIO), put it, “Instead of sending me golf-club covers with a coupon for a free golf club, get me a reference from one of my CIO peers. We all have the same problems,” he said. “The CIO community is very tight.”
In this sense, Marquee Customers are much more than customers; they are an extension of your sales force. Toby Redshaw, Motorola’s corporate vice president, IT strategy, architecture and eBusiness, explains it this way: “When a company is solving a critical problem for us, I want them to be successful. I know that when I call my peers in support of these firms, I am helping companies shorten their sales cycle and reduce their sales costs. It’s a win-win because I am sending my peers a winning solution that will help them with their problems.” In return, Redshaw knows that when these companies are successful, he can call and get what he needs before other companies.
The bottom line: if you’re trying to grow your sales with quantity rather than quality, it may be time to revamp your approach. A few satisfied Marquee Customers who tell others about you can do more for your sales in a few phone calls than your entire sales force might be able to do all year. “Marquee Customers are not just adequate engines of revenue – they help Blueprint Companies become revenue powerhouses,” Thomson concludes. “The more effort a company puts into becoming a revenue powerhouse, the greater the chances of getting to $1 billion revenue.”