Nail it! 9 ways to hone your startup’s pitch to a prospect
Nail it! 9 ways to hone your startup’s pitch to a prospect
Small Business
June 15, 2015

Nail it! 9 ways to hone your startup’s pitch to a prospect

From his work with tech startups, Manoj Govindan of Wells Fargo offers dos and don’ts for pitching big companies.

My job is to help tweak the evolution of technology at Wells Fargo by working with young companies that have innovations to offer us — and to influence the success of these young companies by exposing them to the scale of a large and complex corporation.

Too often, though, I feel like I’m at a “speed dating” exercise: Startup leaders, I find, seldom are expert at pitching their solutions to corporate executives.

For technology companies to be successful, you need to know how to navigate the labyrinth of stakeholders, incentives, concerns, and the accompanying risk, compliance, and business drivers of a company with scale and complexity.

In advance of Wells Fargo’s 2015 Technology Partnership Summit (PDF) in San Francisco, we asked leaders from across Wells Fargo* for pointers they would give to tech companies pitching to larger clients.

  1. Acknowledge the obvious challenges
    Large, complex companies can challenge the best of technologies both in terms of size and architecture. Be prepared to constructively respond to this challenge with agility, differentiation, and speed-to-market. Your product, platform, and pitch should reflect this reality.
  2. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate
    You are potentially displacing or otherwise disrupting incumbent vendors. Be crisp on how you differentiate and fact-based on how your solution is unique. You can also explore partnering with a larger technology company for navigating enterprise scale.
  3. Get specific
    What can your technology do now versus what is in the roadmap ahead? At some stage in the pitching process, you’ll need to review your financials, funding, staffing, and sales pipeline. Be prepared with details for evaluation of things like what your cost model is and how you are positioned to compete and defend against copycats.
  4. Work your contacts
    Avoid the urge to send an email blast to everybody you can get to via LinkedIn. This has a counterproductive effect on a company’s appetite to engage and is a colossal waste of resources for all. A more effective method is to approach a company through a referral from your investor partner, a board member, or a key business or technology executive.
  5. Do your homework!
    Most larger companies have a wealth of public information in print, online, and social media. Understand the company’s scale, business imperatives, risk appetite, and more by doing your research ahead of time. Also know who you’re meeting with. Is it senior technology leaders? Their staffs? The receptionist? Know who they are, and tailor your message for the audience.
  6. Mute the sales pitch
    Most companies are acutely aware of the problems or opportunities for which you’re trying to solve. Avoid obvious and absolute superlatives and “market speak.” Instead, compare and contrast with obvious and not-so-obvious competitors and technically proven facts.
  7. Crawl before you run
    If feasible, start with smaller institutions before pitching to a larger company, which allows you to position more credibly to solve for the opportunity.
  8. Place the geeks front and center
    Bring your senior technical and executive leaders to deep-dive meetings so they can participate. Sales pitches are a dime a dozen. Large companies have armies of sales consultants. Differentiate your company by being technical, visionary, precise, and brief.
  9. Be pragmatic, not dogmatic
    Although you’re certain you can solve every problem — and your ideas are technically sound — be pragmatic in how it integrates in a cost-effective and risk-neutral way with existing technologies. Avoid getting into philosophical debates on what the possibilities are.

What tips would you share? What questions do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


*Important disclaimer: These pointers are a synthesis of suggestions from several leaders at Wells Fargo who provided counsel: Phil Little of Wells Fargo Securities, Avi Avivi of Cybersecurity Architecture, Brian Pearce of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, Jeff Peckham and Eric Altman of Enterprise Data/Analytics Architecture, Bipin Sahni of Wholesale Services and the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, and Vas Kodali of Advanced Technology and Partnerships.

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