6 tips for startups trying to sell into big corporations


Mark Jannetta, Ventures Innovation Partner at Barclays, on how to prepare, explain, and sell your product or service to corporations.

Selling into big corporations is valuable because of the huge potential for increased profile, company development and sales growth, says Mark Jannetta, Vice President of Innovation at Barclays.

Founders should take the opportunity to use feedback and make their product or service more compelling for the corporate world.. With a big corporation on the books, founders will find they can often more easily unlock investment from a wide range of parties.

Here are Mark’s six top tips for selling to corporates.

Do your homework

Big banks and corporates are going to ask you questions about security and risk—it’s unavoidable. Corporations want to avoid working with anyone who is going to adversely impact their business, whether that’s from a technology point of view or reputationally.

Startups can go to this Barclays page to familiarise themselves with the types of questions that corporates or banks are likely to ask them.

You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to show that you’ve done some homework.

Find an ally

Within a corporate there can be multiple layers of sign offs or approvals. So, you must follow up with a contact, be tenacious and stick with the process so that you can get your foot in the door.

If you don’t get a ‘yes’ from one side of the business, don’t be afraid to approach another department.

Try to find someone that sees value in your product and let them act as a guide to the corporation. Let them be your product champion.

Demonstrate value

Find a way to quickly demonstrate the value of your proposition. Banks and corporates are time-poor and have a lot of competing priorities.

Even if you have a great product, you still need a way to show your value with a light touch and in an inexpensive way.

It’s important to make your offering tangible for people, so that they can understand what it is that you do and why they should invest their time and resource.

Make it real

When I work with startups they come to me with lots of proposal submissions. I’m always a little amazed when a proposal doesn’t make a point of clearly addressing the value it might bring.

Ultimately, what I’m interested in is whether the proposition is going to save me money, or whether it will add another revenue stream, or some other benefit.

If you have an amazing product, bring it to life with some figures. It’s fine to have defensible assumptions based on your figures, but saying, ‘I’ve got this awesome chatbot’, isn’t going to get you very far.

Show that you've given some thought on how it would fit into our landscape and what it might mean for our business.

Create a roadmap

It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup or that you’re early stage—we love to see new ideas. But even those with an incredible proof-of-concept should take the time to show how you might evolve the offering from stage one.

It’s very easy for managers to say they’ll sign up to do a POC with you, but if you haven’t given adequate thought to the next steps and the broad timescales, it’s very difficult to get people to see the vision and to commit in any meaningful way.

Be agile

If you’re working with corporates and getting feedback, be prepared to pivot your offering to meet the demands of the market.

I work closely with the Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Often founders will come in with a great idea, but by the time the 13 weeks have passed, they have come up with something a lot more valuable and ultimately more consumable for the bank.

Use the fact that you are an early stage startup, not committed to a product or market, as an advantage.

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