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How to Get Meetings?

A bunch of startups ask me how they can meet with companies (e.g. Cisco, Microsoft, United Airlines, etc.) to get them to use the product, for partnerships, buy the startup (acquisition), and so on. How would they do it? Personal connections? LinkedIn?


16 Replies

Michael M
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Michael M Entrepreneur
Never Stop Creating!
Persistence and Patience are your best advice Next to networking and having a relationship developed with decision makers. At the core any compelling product or story will get your foot in the door which is the easy part, closing the deal whatever it is requires a value prop in favor of the companies needs or solving pinpoints. My first question back would be how many times have they picked up a phone and tried!
Sarah L. Miller
0
0
Sarah L. Miller Advisor
BD & Product Marketing: go-to-market, pre-sales, content, consumer insights
Great advice, Michael! LinkedIn Is great for finding prospects, but I would use their work email address, which you can easily figure out. Reaching out through LI is something I would only do if I already had a relationship. Think about how annoying it is when somebody sends you a LinkedIn request only to find out that they are trying to sell you something. I would add that really understanding who you are addressing (technical vs non-technical gate keepers and decision makers) is half the battle.
Sarah L. Miller
0
0
Sarah L. Miller Advisor
BD & Product Marketing: go-to-market, pre-sales, content, consumer insights
I'd also use the approach of asking for advice from the larger companies without being too afraid that the idea will be poached. if you can customize the product to fit enterprise needs, then that can help the product with direction and success with those types of clients.
John Seiffer
3
0
John Seiffer Advisor
Business Advisor to growing companies
There's a program called Supplier Connection run by IBM designed to help small firms sell to large ones (not just IBM) https://www.supplier-connection.net/SupplierConnection/index.html
Lee Stein
2
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Lee Stein Advisor
Owner, Stein Writes, Inc.
The biggest mistake non-creative sales persons make is to assume that if they don't get the big kahuna, the Sr. VP or Line-of-business manager, or whomever is their ideal target, that the phone or email is a waste. First, you have to have your ducks lined up in terms of marketing message. It's not about how fast you can do something, you have to frame it in terms of solving their problem. Also, the doorkeepers, meaning admins or chief assistants to the assistant chiefs are potentially your friends. Make friends with them and they will tell you little things that will help you. Good times to call (or not), for instance. Second, it's important to understand that sometimes, selling to a giant company like Cisco is a big mistake because you, as a startup or small business, don't have the infrastructure and experience to support their supply chain requirements which can be rigorous and for a small company, deadly. You also need to have a good CFO to make sure you have the operating cash to handle a large deal. More companies go broke from "over-success" than failing to find revenue (at least according to some). Third, it's highly unlikely that the sale to a large company will be based
Douglas Kuhn
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Douglas Kuhn Entrepreneur
CTO, Strategic Development Engineer at Greenwitch Productions LLC
It is the difference between knowing surface knowledge of the contacts you wish to approach and the inner details of those targets. Obtaining meetings with people in the decision levels of these companies is often a matter in knowing the correct details when in opposition of the gate keepers that guard their time management details.

Surface connections with Linkedin are a start, inner knowledge of needs, wants, and calendar events are the end game.
Steve De Long
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Steve De Long Entrepreneur
Founder and Organizer at San Diego Food Entrepreneurs Meetup

Once you figure out an angle to get a opportunity to pitch your target - warm introduction, networking event, conference, cold email, cold call - this formula or a variation of it may be useful:

1) Provide Context (saw that write up about you in TechCrunch and...)

2) Show Gratefulness (best if you've received a benefit from them for example via a blog post they wrote that taught you something)

3) Recognize the value of their time

4) Have a specific ask!

5) Limit their time commitment

6) Make it convenient

7) Provide Value (example if they have active job postings indicate you have AND actually refer this posting to appropriate people in your network or look at their product/app, etc. and report bugs)

8) Indicate how you will provide additional value (for example our product has done X for Y and we think you will get the same benefit).

Keep it short... :-)

Glenn Donovan
2
0
Glenn Donovan Advisor
Vice President of Sales (fractional)
Your question is quite broad. Seeking an acquisition is quite different from selling a product. For strategic deals, go to their strategy/corp dev group or partnership group.

For selling product, there is no cookie cutter approach. In general, if you are going in completely cold your penetration is going to be slow. I recently saw a SaaS startup which claimed they had to send out 2000 emails to get one deal (I think this is awful, btw, but in fact that's what you will get if you are just spamming).

Here are a few thoughts:
1. Who are the stakeholders likely to care about your offering?
2. What will they perceive as valuable? Too often eager startup beavers talk endlessly about their products instead of the value to a the client. Put yourself in their world and communicate in terms of value to them instead of how awesome your product is.
3. Depending on who you are calling on, you may want to call the ring of people around them to try and generate a referral. If you are selling to CEOs this is a very good way to get to them. Also, don't hesitate to talk to anyone who's even tangentially related to what you are doing in the beginning. You'll be amazed at how some conversations go and who can help sometimes.
4. Use the magic phrase, "Can you help me?" Especially with gatekeepers, but often times I'll start off any cold call this way. "I'm wondering if you could help me figure out how to start a dialog with your company about XXXX?" First off, it assumes that such conversations are normal - which they are. Second, people love to help. They will tell you who to talk to or what's going on etc.

Last. There is nothing like perspiration and effort. Make the calls. Do the emails. Reach out on LinkedIn and Twitter. Work your network for referrals. Do research on the companies that you are calling on so you know what's going on with them.

A little hint for you: This is why sales people exist - it isn't just something you can figure out how to do by reading a blog post. It takes real skill and practice to do this well. Consider using a professional to do this for you and you will get better results.

Jeff Lougheed
0
0
Jeff Lougheed Entrepreneur
Next Gen Sales Leader l High-Performance Team Builder
Build a plan, be straight forward and polite and don't give up. Email 1, Email 2, Email 3, phone call, Email 4, Email 5, Phone call - pause, fire back up in X weeks. Figure out gatekeepers, get to know them. Go wide and deep. Research the person and the company and add value. Maybe brush up on copywriting, always be positive.
Vasilis Kratidis
0
0
Vasilis Kratidis Entrepreneur
Business Development Director at Mathemagenesis
Hi Andreas,

It depends on the product/service first of all.
Then it needs patience and keep trying. The most important is trust.
Direct contact is the best solution (phone, mail etc). A strategic partnership with a win-win proposal is always welcome. But it needs time.
Maybe you can hire a PR manager to go on with this procedure. LinkedIn via a direct mail would be positive.

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