How to talk to a big corporation when you are small startup
Shyness does not allow us to take appropriate steps that can change the course of our lives or business. We perceive ourselves completely different than others perceive us, and it is through this error that we are not able to go beyond the scheme and try something new. Meanwhile, the approach to another person and establishing a direct relationship is the simplest thing that we can do to make it happen. So why are so few of us daring to get to know a new person?
Each year 5 million conferences are organized worldwide. 5 million opportunities to discover the big world and open up to the other person. On the Internet, we’ll find a whole bunch of articles that show that networking is the key to starting a business and another hundred others that it does not work and is a waste of time. Meanwhile, I would like to give you two examples that it is worth trying.
You never know what awaits you.
We came to the outskirts of Vienna. We chose the train, because we wanted to use the time on the journey for talking about our project. We left without unnecessary delays. The next day we were to go to the Pioneers Festival.
Pioneers are one of the most exceptional start-up events. During the two-day conference there are over 2,500 participants from the largest companies in the world, as well as investors, journalists, founders of companies who work on the most innovative projects. The event takes place in the unique interiors of the Hofburg Palace in the center of Vienna.
During the two-day stay we met 141 different people with whom we established less or more meaningful conversations. With four of them we have established a direct business relationship, which translated into the joint development of our businesses.
Let’s get to the details
Tired after two days of talks, speeches, presentations, networking, etc., I approached one of the largest corporations in the world. I wanted to ask them about one of their services that we wanted to use. The conversation was very fluid. A lady experienced in sales quickly tried to get me involved in the conversation. At the end of our conversation, she asked rather out of politeness what I do professionally. I told her about our Tap To Speak, about the fact that we operate in the event industry and how many interesting, innovative solutions we have in our portfolio. I gave her my business card and I completely forgot about the whole situation. By the time…
Two months later
She contacted me almost 60 days after our conversation. She wrote that that day I was the only person who did not wanted to sell her any services and that is why she remembered me. My business card went to her boss, then to the next boss. Flew 2 different countries and finally landed on the desk of the director in Ireland, which was organizing the conference one and a half months later.
I met the corporation’s realities as a young boy. I worked in an interactive agency where hundreds of people together were creating something big. I understood that a corporation is a completely separate (often strange) being that has its own rules. Access to “unlimited” amounts of money means that you live there completely beyond the realities that young company or a startup must face.
Despite this experience, the collision with an international corporation turned out to be something other than it seemed to me.
- First of all – they start from a better position. They are bigger and it seems that they can do more.
- Secondly – the person I talked to completely did not have the opportunity to get to know me, so I was not a partner for her and a person to whom she felt trust.
- Thirdly – such a large company can not make any mistakes. One tripping brings with it an avalanche of other tripping, which is unacceptable for such a giant. Thus, the choice of contractors is limited.
- Fourthly – the decision-making process is as long as Kamil Stoch’s jumps. They last all eternity
- Fifth – (despite the above) everything’s deadline is on yesterday.
- Sixth – you need to convince 3 times more people than you think.
It started with an innocent, reconnaissance email and description of event subject.
Build a relationship
I’ve learned before that people do not buy products, but a relationship with another human being.
That’s why I’ve played it cool, so as not to sell our solution at once, and so that she could get to know me better. I wrote what we do, what is my role in the project and how it is nice that they contacted us. I mentioned that Tap To Speak was used on hundreds of other conferences and that I’m always available to her if she had any questions. I was not intrusive, on the contrary, I wanted to get to know the person myself, so that I could better advise her later.
We exchanged a dozen e-mails before serious business talks began. One morning I saw a message addressed to 12 different people from the corporation. People involved directly in the event. Each of them had a completely different role, and some of them were even from external companies that organized the entire event. I must admit that I froze that moment.
I knew what was waiting for me. I knew how much work we would have to do now to convince all these people to trust us. In small businesses, the impulse from head to leg goes right away. Either something is good or not. We do something, or we stop. The giants are very different.
In for a penny, in for a pound
I started by checking all these people on Linkedin, their roles in the project, what they do. I was looking for information that may not be as helpful as it may be in some way a threat – for example, that our third-party businesses will compete with each other.
Later, to feel who only reads emails, and who will have real participation in the decision-making process, I sent a short e-mail asking if everyone knows what Tap To Speak is and whether I should do a short intro.
I mentioned that people buy a relationship. So it seems natural that we have to leave the e-mails in which each of us is just a signature and try to see each other somehow. The flight to Ireland was not an option, so the easiest way was to meet online. Together with my partner, Marek, we decided that the best approach would be to have a conversation via Zoom, so that we could get to know each other better and to convince them that we are people to whom we can have trust. Only 7 out of 12 people signed up for the demo, which significantly reduced the barrier.
Prepare your background
When preparing for the presentation, take care of the lighting and your background. Home wallpaper, sofa or car seats may not be a good sign of you or the attitude to the interlocutor. We have prepared for a few hours to demonstrate the product itself. We used the advantages of our office, in which one of the walls is all glazed, the green meadow and behind it. Although we do not pay attention to it on a daily basis, but I am sure that during the conversation it made an impression.
15 minutes – that’s maximum time you can take away from them. People in corporations do not like meetings and they are aware of how ineffectively their time is used. Remember about humorous intro, ask loosely what’s going on, and then get straight to the point saying that you do not want to take too much time.
After the presentation
After the presentation, we sent e-mails to all involved people, asking how it was, than as befits a startup – we iterated;) We repeated the whole process two more times. Our idea intrigued others that more and more people in the company wanted to get to know us and we had to make presentations for more and more people. Or they just liked window in our office.
When you convince everyone that working with you is safe. When their accounting department will scan you. When their lawyer signs with you NDA (which is long as all eternity!). When you finally think that this is the end – then it will be time to negotiate.
Try not to get carried away at this point and not get involved with the amounts that will be proposed by the partner. This greatly limits the room for manoeuvre. We used the comparative method for this. During conversation we asked if they knew Trello, and when they nodded, we said that exactly like them – we have a policy of relentless prices, meaning we can not offer them a discount. Remember to be nice, understand problems and give arguments. For my part, I assured you that we will take care of everything to go without problems, that they will be very important for us, and that we guarantee them support.
I said they could call me directly if anything happened.
Be yourself, smile, do not be intrusive. If you create a product that you’d like to use, talking with other people or companies will simply be a pleasure.