If there is one common issue that keeps startups awake more than hiring, it is their B2B deals. Be it revenue-traction or access to a large customer base that the right partnerships deliver, many high-potential startups have failed in their B2B efforts. Here is a cheat-sheet to succeed in your B2B outreach. One word of caution, though: several of these are interconnected, and it takes discipline and process to imbibe these practices as second nature:
As a startup, speed is of the essence. But perhaps more important is a fellow visionary who is willing to bet on new services and products. Get buy-in at the highest levels of your client organization to see quick movement and align their different departments. Keep the leadership teams in your partnerorganizations updated on progress to be able to fall back on them to overcome roadblocks. It is easy to build a trusting relationshipif you can find key people who hold your work from an earlier engagement in high regard, or get referrals from those who your potential clients value. Some of our early partners at Fropcorn are past clients and others have materializedthrough common connects, that have either made for sweeter deals or quicker execution
Research: Understanding the Industry & Account
Research the industry, organization and the individuals you are dealing with. Understand their history, opinions, buying and partnership processes. You will be surprised at the clarity of next steps, timelines and predictability of the engagement subsequently. This helps you tailor your own approach and prioritize
Discover, Don’t Sell
Startup selling is closer to concept selling. Have a genuine conversation, identify gaps that your product or service fulfills, ask questions,listento your partners and clients. You will be surprised to discover the things clients care for. One of our earlier conversations exposed us to a critical consumer pain-point and opened up an entirely new vertical. This led to our first paying enterprise customer and helped shape the business model for a new vertical.Instead of selling, brainstorming creates a shared-vision that your partners automatically believe in.
Even the best of BD and Partnership professionals go wrong with this one. It is easy to “pitch” to those who will lend you an ear. Account Mapping is key to understanding if you are engaging the right individuals and speaking the right language. Almost all partnerships will require multiple individuals and departments to say Often, these individuals have different professional objectives, ranging from RoI to better user experience and ease of integration. Since this information is not easily exposed to outsiders, develop coaches in client organizations who help chalk out and maneuver through the organizational maze and buying influences
Learn when to say “NO”
You must know things that you will do and those you won’t. This comes from clarity in the company’s vision, openness in acknowleding what a particular partnership delivers for your organization (be it revenue, customers or even just validity in the market) and valuing what you have built. At a recent meeting, a potential partner demanded that we deploy the solution for free, while absorbing the Capex & giving up pricing control, in return for not opting for a competing product. The decision to stay away from this deal has allowed us to focus on a more scalable, long-term solution without diluting our product
If following these practices yourself seems like a daunting task, it is even tougher to ensure that you imbibe these in your team. Processes can help a great deal. But hiring right is key. Hire people who are good listeners, articulate, display clarity, think quickly on their feet, are keen observers and inquisitive, meticulous in their approach and possess the ability to push-back politely. It is a tough mix to find, but hire the right people after mapping their skills and personalities to their primary area of work, and it will be well worth the effort and time
Plan & Incentivize Right
I have been part of teams with long sales-cycles where sales planning is about setting annual targets and tracking metrics start and end with “number of meetings”. The outcome is a lot of meetings to tide over the quarterly reviews and few sustainable, meaningful partnerships. Instead, what works better is to plan the engagements and milestones required to achieve goals. These can be account mapping, revert on proposals, getting a go-ahead from one of many teams – anything that moves you closer to a deal. This approachlets you track progress, course-correct, and realign your team’s efforts. Coupled with the right mix of outreach and efficiency metrics. this is an early activity to ensure success
Depending on the nature of partners and clients you deal with, a partnership or sale could take months to materialize. Over the last year, our team at Fropcorn has dealt with businesses as diverse as Bus Operators to Airport Operators and Startups to leading corporations. Having converted 75% of our partnerships as a team, these are the tenets we follow: Remain persistent. Follow up. Share Updates. Find reasons to meet and speak. Offer help, for no immediate gains. Make introductions. Be pleasant. Till the point someone says no, or more likely, yes.