Tips for Small Business Owners Pitching Business to Large Corporations

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Are you a small business owner facing a pitch with a large corporate client for the first time? Are you worried that you may appear too operational, too niche or not growth-oriented enough to be an exciting partner?

It is all in how you position yourselves.

No question that startups have serious appeal when it comes to making a pitch. But so can small businesses! It is important to keep in mind the distinction between how small businesses and startups add value. According to Forbes, startups are created “to search for a repeatable and scalable business model” – they focus more on top line revenue and growth potential. In fact, we would recommend you read yet2’s Startup blog series for more details.

In contrast, small businesses carry a strong objective of profitability and stable long-term value. Given these difference, one can imagine the kinds of people and talent each attracts are very different and therefore not uncommon to find the style of the pitch differs widely as well.

yet2 coaches both types of businesses. We receive a full range of assignments from scouting high technology/research applications for government agencies to Fortune companies whose needs may be more ready-to-engage nuts-and-bolts orientation that fits with their current go-to market strategy.

The assignment

Recently, a large corporate client approached us with a culturally sensitive assignment requiring scouting small business owners with a specific demographic to pitch for a new business partnership. Following the scouting phase, yet2 reached out to these business owners to hear out their presentations and pitches. The responses ranged from contractor-like dispositions to sending a 60-page request for proposal (RFP) feedback document. This was a recipe for losing a battle before it begins.

What we consistently found is these small business owners had a compelling mission and personal story to tell. Many have the charisma, but few have the resources to develop a solid elevator pitch, which is what our client needed.

Our custom approach – beyond products and services

yet2 saw an opportunity to help small business owners develop their custom presentation by developing the pitch beyond the business’ core competencies and processes – we have found getting beyond an internal orientation is key – as it puts less onus on the corporate listener to build bridges to their business needs on their own. As consultants, yet2 aim to make it easier on our clients to see the value proposition of the firms we find bring to the opportunity.

In one specific case, we worked with a small business owner to tailor her message by making the following key suggestions that ultimately influenced her final presentation which was a success.

  1. Imagine yourself in the partnership with the corporate client – Build a presentation that empowers the small business owners by using visual aids/background that put them side by side with the corporate client they are pitching to (e.g. use icons, discuss history of the company and commonalities). If the small business owner is sensitive about their size, it will naturally be de-emphasized with this approach.
  2. Clearly identify capabilities and differentiators from others in the marketplace – How they do their work but also what makes them a top company to work with – corporate clients who are short on time often want to see a one-slider that gives them information quickly.
  3. Include (and consider leading with) the backgrounds of the small business owners – Paint a picture of yourself with a personal take on your vision not just what your brochures say.
  4. Introduce case studies that are relevant to the industry in which the corporate client operates.
  5. Discuss the importance of collaboration and where it enters the business service delivery model.


Preparation matters

Preparation is always a good idea when working with large corporate clients. Being well-organized and thoughtful about developing your presentation will send a very important message as to the personalities of the presenters and is often half the battle. Corporations not only want to know what services a business provides but also the motivations of the business owner.

The next time you are asked to develop a presentation or pitch, consider what we shared with you today. The extra attention could land you a short-listing before you know it!

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