Nailing that first account with a big business is a rite of passage for every start-up.
The process is easier with some multinationals than others. Recent Australian ventures by Google and Microsoft demonstrate a desire to embrace the smaller end of the market, not to mention the recent emergence of WEConnect International, a network linking big businesses to budding female entrepreneurs.
But how does a virtually unknown start-up win that first account, pitch itself against established rivals and also make sure the business isn’t swamped in the process?
Micah Smith, a director of IT infrastructure consultancy business Thomas Duryea, says it took a few years before what he calls “enterprise clients” or larger businesses were prepared to do business with the firm.
“We had formed strong relationships with a number of mid-market businesses and when staff from these businesses who had had a good relationship with us moved into larger organisations, it served as a good entry point into these larger firms,” he says.
“We’ve also put in a lot of hard work cold calling sales prospects at bigger firms and honing our unique selling proposition. At the start, we also got specialist help preparing tenders,” he explains.
When it comes to pitching against larger competitors, Smith says the business emphasises the advantages of having a local support presence, compared to international firms that might provide support offshore.
“We’re also smaller and faster than large organisations, which don’t necessarily treat every engagement with the same passion that we do,” he says.
Smith says it’s also important to demonstrate that you understand that larger, more mature clients have particular internal processes and change and project management systems that need to be respected.
“Even in the pitching process, it’s important to acknowledge you understand and will comply with their systems,” he says.
“You also need to appreciate their risk of engaging with you as a smaller organisation, they are assessing whether you have enough resources, so you need to understand this view and respond to it.”
Indeed, when it comes to making sure you have the right resources to take on a project with a big business, Smith says it’s essential not to oversell your business.