Tips for Startups: Maximizing your Meeting with Large Corporations

Part 2 in a three-part series

Startups often miss their opportunity to maximize their first meeting with a large corporation. Why?

There are a lot of ways a startup can botch the first meeting with a large company.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen thousands. From not showing up, to having your technical person skip the meeting, to introducing confidential information, and on and on.  So, if you read our first blog post on how startups can interact with large corporations more effectively, you know how to prepare for your first meeting. Let’s now dive into the actual pitch meeting with a large company. While this list is not comprehensive, we have found that these key points set a solid foundation for a productive meeting for both you and the large company.

Focus on your Comparative Value Proposition!! *additional exclamation mark on purpose*
If the large company remembers only one thing about your presentation, it should be your comparative value proposition (CVP). Basically, this describes the value that you are providing to your customers and how your technology differentiates itself from existing and emerging technologies in the same area. To create your CVP for these types of meetings, we recommend identifying your competitive positioning by asking

  • Who are our closest competitors?
  • What makes our idea/business different?
  • Is our technology significantly lower in cost?
  • Is it similar in cost but offers enormous performance advantages?

We recommend mentioning your competitors’ names to help your audience understand the benchmark and the category you fall into – as important as any other dimension of your CVP, please take as good a cut as you can at quantifying this difference. If you don’t have direct competitors, you should still explain the value that you add to the field and to who/what you might compete with tangentially.

We don’t recommend you spend much time explaining your target market. We realize this is not a set rule – it really depends on who you are pitching to. But we’ve found that many of the large companies know relevant target markets well and typically have chosen to speak to you for a strategic reason. This is where our previous tip on researching the large company comes in hand – for example, if the large company has brand products for sleep, you don’t have to dive deep into the market size of insomniacs in a specific region.

Show, don’t [just] tell

If you are a service provider and your differentiation is based on how you interact with the client, or a customized solution– don’t just explain what you do, show us. Prepare case studies or use cases to illustrate how your technology has been implemented. If you can’t mention your clients’ names or specific applications, anonymize the case study but include the most relevant information. Case studies have been the deciding factor for many projects where we have looked for service providers.

Do you have evidence?
When a large company requests and moves into sample analysis, pilot studies, etc., they are committing internal resources to the opportunity. Before they do this, they are going to ask you for any type of evidence. Be prepared to present and reference data that is publicly available. If you have unpublished or confidential data, provide a non-confidential summary of what type of data would be available under an NDA. This will at least reassure the large company that data does exist, and of the conditions under which they would be able to see it. In some cases, no data means you won’t be considered as a partner, unless the large company is looking for prototype stage technology and are willing to fund a pilot blindly (keep in mind that this is rare).

Leave time for Q&A
Or even better, let them ask questions throughout the presentation. This encourages your listeners into actively engage during the presentation, and to clarify any confusing concepts during the meeting. This also gives you a chance to learn what the large company is really interested in. For example, if they are asking detailed questions about the fundamental aspects of the technology and safety criteria, they might be considering the feasibility of developing the technology further for another market.

Answer the question (if you can)
If you don’t know the answer to the question, we recommend you follow up after the meeting, rather than making something up – even if it’s something you “should” know! We’ve seen startups try to circumvent or avoid a difficult question, but that wastes more time, makes your audience think you are a poor communicator, or gives the impression you are hiding something.

 Have one ask for the large company
Salespeople would call this “winning the next meeting”, we highly recommend it to keep everything moving forward. But be careful about this – too bold, and the large company will laugh at you; too meek, and you leave your fate in their hands. Just the right, reasonable, question can be extremely powerful.  Some examples of your ask include:

  • What are your next steps?
  • If we send you samples, will you be able to test them?
  • If we move ahead to an NDA, will a budget holder be attending the next meeting?

After the meeting
Even if there are no immediate next steps following the meeting, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to move forward with you!  I’ll explain why this is and what your next steps should be in my next blog post.

At this point, you should start to consider if this is the type of company you want to partner with. Your team needs to think about what a partnership could mean for you and if that company meets your need. Ask yourself:

  • Do they have the distribution channels you are looking for?
  • Are they open to licensing your intellectual property?
  • Do they want to co-develop the core technology for another market?

Regardless of the type of business opportunity that you’re seeking, you should assess if your goals are aligned with what the large company is looking to do. Use these strategies for maximizing your meeting with a large corporation and you’ll be better positioned for a positive outcome!

In my next blog post, I’ll share what to do after the pitch.

This is the second part in a three-part series on how startups can interact with large corporations more effectively. Read part 1 here.