How to get traction with large organisation as a startup

As per the 2017 European Scale-up report, contrary to Silicon Valley, where 2 out of 3 startups are consumer oriented, 60% of European scale-ups are B2B focused. Initiating, building and maintaining productive relationships with large customers are challenges for many startups.

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Adapting to a different operating framework

To become successful at driving sales in a Business-to-Business environment, it is critical for any Entrepreneur to first accommodate to a very specific operating framework.

Large customers are primarily assessing new innovation against Return on Investment, validating how it will help them increase profitable sales. In the background, the Entrepreneur will have to establish deeper relationships with a small number of companies. A further focus will be to cater for a Person-to-Person selling across multiple stakeholders. And above all, to be patient, acknowledging slower decision process of large organizations.

Executing the Key account sales process steps

In the established context, it will be important to manage the related end-to-end process:

  • Robust pre-sales approach
  • Well prepared sales interface
  • Thorough post-sales follow-up

To prepare for the sale, it will be critical for the Entrepreneur to get-out and understand the industry structure and its dynamics, so also to articulate a solid, simple Value Proposition. Beyond the market focus, it will also require to research customer organization and identify the true decision makers, their readiness to pay and seek early adopters.

During the sales process, it is very critical to listen to customers, so as to deliver what they need. To build credibility, the Entrepreneur will need to apply full human resources bandwidth to gain management trust, similarly to Venture Capital discussions. During this critical phase, the focus should remain on key contract items: scope, liability, IP ownership and termination terms. The Entrepreneur should always be weary what its organization signs and seek legal advice whenever appropriate.

The management of the post-sales process is a fundamental building block to success. The Entrepreneur will have to expand its discussion and reach to other functions within the customer organization. It should be useful to consider implementing a Key Account penetration plan but also some simple but effective web-based sales pipeline management tools. Finally, the Entrepreneur should ensure not to be blindsided by the urgency to get the order on the table and prepare for the next sales opportunity.

About the Author

Roberto Magnifico, Chief Commercial Officer, with the Startup ActLight SA.

He draws from his broad key account sales and senior management experience to provide exciting insights and practical examples. You will have the opportunity of a live chat to ask relevant questions.

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