As a startup or SME, it can be intimidating dealing with large enterprises, which leads many business owners to shy away or become doubtful about dealing with them, even if the potential upside looks fantastic.
There’s good reason for this uneasy feeling. SMEs often feel vulnerable in comparison and are concerned about getting taken advantage of. This leads to suspicion. What’s really in it for this large corporation that seems interested in helping a small startup out? Why us? Why not just do it yourselves, with all your resources?
The first reason is simple: survival.
Large enterprises often reach a peak and become static. Intuitively, we know this. There’s no shortage of words online about large enterprises that did one service so well, but couldn’t pivot or adapt to new technology disrupting their services (Kodak, Blackberry, the list goes on).
It’s actually the innovator’s dilemma. Often large incumbents are myopic and are afraid to cannibalise their core product. Mobile carriers totally lost that market because they were afraid that SMSes would cannibalise voice, and once they got accustomed to SMSes and used it as a cash-cow, they resisted cross-platform messaging… and Whatsapp became a $16 billion-dollar company with 55 employees.
There’s also geography.
As larger companies continue developing their business in one particular location, it is difficult to expand past a particular point, so building a partnership with startups that have the potential to replicate and add to the large company’s strategy can provide them with valuable access to additional areas.
Enterprises may also lack the technical nitty-gritty required to build a solution, to fill a gap in the market. This is often the best kind of partnership, where you’ll see both sides reap the benefits of having access to each other’s information. While the enterprise receives assistance from a team who can work on one issue, quickly and efficiently, the startup can gain access to the thoughts and processes used in an entire corporation, providing them with new insights and allowing them to create solutions for the problems which they otherwise wouldn’t have known existed.
In my experience, there are four factors that influence the success of large enterprise deals.
1. Nail the basics
With almost no exceptions, you need a slick website with active social media channels. It is likely to be here that you’ll establish the initial contact with corporations. It’s free airtime and if you draft the message correctly, you can really gain some traction.
Here’s a checklist.
- A branded (.com or .com.au) domain.
- A simple, modern website design that adapts to mobile devices.
- Basic information on your website (such as your company profile, contact details, office addresses).
- A local Google listing which is done through Google My Business.
- Active accounts on social media channels.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get knocking on the doors of these enterprises.
2. Build yourself as a thought-leader
This step has no checklist. It requires proactivity, networking and thinking outside the box, and once mastered will make a massive difference to your business.
As a founder, owner or executive, you are the representative of your business and its brand.
Attending industry events, reaching out to journalists and joining online discussions all need to be done in a manner that demonstrates your ability to problem-solve.
Build a story. No one remembers a run of the mill entrepreneur. If you are a story, people will remember you.
3. Know what it is you’re selling
Enterprises often choose solutions based on two things: does it cut down operating costs and does it help gain profit?
If you’re pitching to business executives, your angle should always revolve around solving a problem or providing a solution, never your product.
Your solution should answer these questions:
- What business value does your offering provide to the enterprise?
- Are you solving a real pain-point?
- Why should they work with you?
By solving their problems, it makes it easier for you to land that lucrative enterprise contract. You can achieve this by providing value and becoming an integral partner for the business, not just another vendor.
For example, if you own a software development company, talk about how your team can provide custom-tailored solutions to improve and automate any business operation. This targets the needs of the enterprise directly.
In order to solve the large corporation’s most pressing issues, you need to understand how their industry works, uncover their pain-points, and figure out how the pain-points are affecting their business. All these insights can be achieved through researching and listening to your prospects, be it through meetings or discovery calls.
4. Seize opportunities with both hands
Working with enterprises and corporate clients has been proven time and time again to be beneficial for small business growth.
Doing so gives you a major advantage over your rivals, who may instead listen to the doubt in their head telling them to play it safe.
There is nothing wrong with slow, steady growth. But the best businesses of the last century are the ones that took an opportunity when it presented itself, and looked to continuously adapt and change as their industries were disrupted.
Partnerships with enterprises give SMEs the opportunity to truly accelerate their own trajectory, and fundamentally change their partner’s in the process.
As founders, we become accustomed to relying on our intuition and expertise to make our startups work, but sometimes in business, it’s best to partner up, instead of going it alone.