Landing a partnership with a Fortune 100 company could be the deal that puts your startup on the map. It could be the difference between linear and exponential growth; landing a big round of funding or plugging away as a bootstrapped company. It could mean a 10X or 3X revenue multiple or whether your kids attend private or public school.
In 2013, Mhelpdesk landed two partnerships with Fortune 100 companies and one partnership each with a Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 company. While there's no magic formula to sealing the deal with top-tier organizations, there are a number of tactics you can implement to increase your chances of developing a long-lasting relationship.
Assuming your product is marketable and has paying customers, here are six things that you can do to help you land that big you've been longing for:
Find an internal champion
Before you begin any partnership discussions, find someone who works within the target company who might also work on the primary decision maker's team. This person is usually a product specialist, business development manager, or something similar. He or she reports to the decision maker to whom you ultimately want to pitch the partnership idea.
Developing a relationship with this lower-level employee gives you a voice within the company. This is your internal champion. They are going to push for your solution and for the relationship to progress. He or she is critical to landing the deal and will cheer you on every step of the way.
Get a warm intro from the decision-maker's boss
Kudos for determining the exact person you need to connect with in order to land your next partnership – perhaps the director of business development or VP of strategy. However, you can take this one step further and target their boss or even their boss' boss to ensure a warm introduction.
By doing this, yes, you are going over the decision-maker's head. But if you're good at crafting cold emails, you should be able to initiate a dialogue that puts you on the radar of the people who matter. This could do wonders for accelerating the urgency of your proposition. Here's why it matters:
- The director of business development will already know that your proposition is within the scope of the company’s objectives, since his boss made the intro.
- The director of business development will want to follow through with the intro and show progress on the deal to impress his boss.
- The deal will naturally take higher priority coming in as a warm introduction rather than if you were to reach out cold.
Follow up relentlessly
We closed a partnership with a Fortune 1000 company a few weeks ago. The deal made sense in terms of product and customer acquisition, so we went forward with it. The employee running the deal was an absolute rockstar. He did three things that made the entire deal run incredibly smoothly:
1. Included all parties in all emails: Every email – including the technical ones between our CTO and their integration team – had everyone copied so we all knew what was going on at all times.
2. Ended every call with a next step: After every call there were clearly defined next steps and a follow-up meeting was scheduled immediately. Everyone knew their deliverables and was expected to bring them to the follow-up call.
3. Kept the workload/benefits mutual: Most of our deliverables would trigger something of value for our side. For example, once we onboarded 10 beta customers, the partnering company sent us $5,000 to offset our cost of development. Or, after the technical integration was complete, we were sent over 6,000 leads for our sales team. Relentless follow up, assigning an owner to every part of the deal, and having next steps outlined is something that can make a deal run smoothly and help get you across the finish line.
Show that you can manage the partnership
One of the biggest hesitations that large companies have when working with startups is that they will be unable to properly manage an influx of new customers. Emphasize that sales and support is the main priority of your company. Bring Fortune 100 representatives into your office and show them your ability to scale up as volume increases. Provide them with your current sales and support processes and metrics, your onboarding procedure, and any associated costs. This transparency will help to sell your ability to manage growth.
Send personal gifts
Personal touches go a long way. At Mhelpdesk we like to send a personal gift to anyone who manages a potential deal. The moment we have a channel or sales operations manager assigned, we send them flowers.
We also determine their personal interests by reading their Twitter accounts. In one example, we quickly determined that our channel manager was a big Rutgers fan. Two months into the relationship, we sent her four tickets to a game.
I can't begin to describe the benefits this had for our company. She helped us get a co-marketing budget from the Fortune 100 company, she pushed our product to the sales team as a high-priority item, and even put our partnership program in the next highest tier (which means more resources) that would normally take years to attain. If I were to quantify our personal gift strategy and put on a return on investment, it'd be over 10,000 per cent.
Hire an ex-CEO of a current partner as a consultant
One last thing to consider when trying to land these lucrative partnerships is hiring the ex-CEO of a company who is already an established partner of the target Fortune 100 company. He or she can help you navigate the organization with valuable insight into internal politics and influential stakeholders. You'll also be able to leverage their existing relationships.
Bottom line: Landing a partnership with a Fortune 100 company is hard. You're going to have to ensure that the deal makes sense to them – in terms of product and financials. Assuming it does, these tactics have helped us in the past and, I believe, greatly increased our chances of closing a deal.
Ryan Shank is the COO of Mhelpdesk, a field service software company that helps small businesses manage their jobs, scheduling and invoices.
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