Set the tone of your upcoming collaboration
Getting in contact with an established company aiming for a successful and sustainable collaboration is something you should not underestimate. In this section we guide you on your way to contact the corporate.
Find the right contact person
The first communication with the contact person needs to take into account both their needs and their position in the company; remember that this contact person will promote the collaboration internally. Therefore, you should try to understand as best as possible the tasks, the background, the interests and the motivation of the people you want to talk to, particularly the main contact person.
When approaching large and complex companies, it can be difficult for young founders to identify the right contact person. Depending on the purpose, the right person could be found on different hierarchical levels and in different projects. Be clear whether you are looking for operative workforce or strategic partners with the power to make decisions.
The following graphic illustrates schematically the characteristics of contact people at different hierarchy levels:
Source: UnternehmerTUM, Collaborate to Innovate P.22
Convincing business units goes a long way towards successful collaboration, but be aware that it’s not going to be only them negotiating with you. Apart from different management layers, support functions play a major role here. Departments like purchasing and IT (for software solutions) should therefore be involved early on in the process, so you can get their commitment and understand their requirements. Furthermore, you should consider in your pricing strategy that purchasing might try to get a discount independent of what you might have agreed upon with business units.
Best Practice Example – Where to find established companies
Malek Chaabane, Tunisian Branch Manager at German Mittelstand company habemus!, gives his tips for where start-ups can find established companies and how they can best be approached and convinced.
Don’t forget to think about the corporate culture
Be aware that start-ups and corporations have different cultures. Structures and processes in established companies often appear non-transparent or complicated at first.
This becomes a little clearer if we consider the challenges that corporates are facing.
Organically grown structures: Difficult to adapt or change quickly
Reputation: Makes it hard to try something new
Pressure to be profitable: Projects mostly need to be profitable
Comfort: No clear need for change, as long as the business model works
High level of requirements: Collaboration partners need to meet strict requirements
Large size of the company and number of employees: Non-transparent responsibilities and structures even for internals.
If you are in the mood for a deep dive into the mind-set gaps between corporates and start-ups and how to overcome these, please follow this link.
Speaking of cultural peculiarities, are you already aware of the “German Mittelstand” and the corporate culture in Germany?
Best Practice Example – How to approach corporates
Have a closer look at Parcellab, a start-up from Munich. Parcellab helps brands and companies to improve their customer experiences. This business model requires a large and growing network, as well as excellent sales skills.
Here are first hand tips on how to sell something to Germans at a glance!
Prepare your sales documents
Your sales documents are the first documents a possible collaboration partner sees. You can imagine these slides as your personal application. Therefore, we highly recommend that you create these documents with great diligence and keep them constantly up to date.
Because we consider this to be a crucial step in the process of your collaboration, we have prepared some valuable links to help you do a deep dive here.
In addition to the content of your documents, they will also always contain a message. Ideally, you will tailor this to the specific person you are approaching. Take into consideration what you wish to achieve when contacting the company; think about what a potential collaboration could look like and what that would entail for both partners.
These considerations should then be included in any presentations or sales documents that you are sending to the corporate. Make sure to personalise your message, e.g. by mentioning the company’s name or detailing what collaboration could look like and mean to your potential partner.
Best Practice Example – Don’t make these mistakes when pitching
Making a pitch is considered to be one of the most complex aspects of the whole collaboration process. In order to avoid some of the typical mistakes that can take place during a two-minute pitch, we asked Dino Karl, Chief Commercial Officer at Storifyme and former head of Presales SAP, about common mistakes of start-ups while pitching.
Best Practice Example – Use start-up programs to get in touch
Once you know who you want to talk to and have your documents ready, it is time to get out and meet as many people as possible, build up a network and meet interesting people from your industry or other start-ups. Therefore, we are going to introduce you to a promising example, the corporate start-up program!