What Small Businesses Should Know About Pitching to Corporates

So, you’ve written your business plan, developed and tested, bought the domain and designed your website, worked around the clock, and taken however many other steps forward and knocks backwards. Now you’re looking to find big business to pitch to – whether you’re looking for clients for your business, or partners to help you grow. And it’s not just any pitch; it’s to a career-defining, large corporate. And, quite possibly, you’re feeling a little nervous. 

Remember, when you’re pitching to corporates, no matter how big or small, you’re pitching to people. These decision-makers are looking for partners who can solve their problems. These companies accept pitches because they need new ideas and skills that don’t exist in their company, and you’re there to fulfil that need. It’s a mutual exchange, and, although you might be the one selling, the want is a collaboration, helping each other to work towards a common goal. 

Here are some critical tips to help small businesses get ready to pitch to corporates, and how to nurture the business relationships you’re potentially entering into. 

Working with Corporates as Clients

When heading into your pitch, you need to know what relationship you’re aiming to enter. Corporates can become your clients, or they can become partners. One of the main distinctions between these two is that as clients, the project may be more short-term, depending on their needs. However, don’t let this put you off. According to a survey from the Centre for an Urban Future, SMEs who supplied large corporations reported average revenue growth of 266% between one year and two years after their first sale. 

Although the initial project may be short-term, there is plenty of potential for future work, whether in different departments or other projects within the business. Also, working with high-profile clients can boost morale within your team, and impresses other potential investors and clients, so make sure you put them on your website!

Working with Corporates as Partners

Corporate partnerships, by nature, tend to be long-lasting relationships. Corporates will look to work closely with a startup or SME to innovate and develop new, exciting solutions and products that will mutually benefit all businesses involved. Although a mutual partnership, there is still a degree of freedom in the relationship, as creativity and freethinking are most definitely encouraged. 

As a small business, you’ll be provided with financial investment and space and time to experiment, develop and test, and can help to take your business to new heights. You should expect this relationship to be a profoundly collaborative one based on achieving long-term success and should be willing to adapt and move with what the corporate’s needs are.  

Understand The Business and Their Audience

Now that you know what kind of relationship you’re looking for, it’s time to do your research. Ahead of your pitch, learn as much as you can about the business and who its audience is. Then, to give the best pitch, you need to prove to them how your visions align and how your business can solve its audience’s problems.  

We’re not suggesting scrolling back to the beginning of their social media, but it’s essential that you have a sense of whom you will be selling to. Try and find out what kinds of businesses they have invested in before, how they tend to work with partners and what sort of topics they’re interested in. Understanding and having an awareness of their positions within the business will help you humanise them and enable you to tailor your content to their interests.

Tell A Story and Provide the Facts

In your pitch, it’s good to have a balance of relatable content that humanises the product whilst ensuring that the proof of value is rooted in fact. 

In pitching, you’re not only selling your product or idea; you’re selling yourself. By utilising storytelling in your pitch, you’re showing your potential client or partner who you are. Sell your agility, your ideas, your expertise, your USP. Authenticity and passion are some of the most robust tools in your arsenal when pitching. One study found that 90% of decisions are based on emotion, with them returning to logic to justify their decision. If you’re selling a product, make sure to include a demo of it being used, it’s much more memorable than being told what something does. 

That being said, not knowing your facts and figures is pretty unforgivable when pitching. However, if you know your numbers, have identified KPIs, have done your due diligence, and can roll all of these out off the top of your head during a pitch, you’ll be sure to impress your audience. 

Be Flexible

One of the significant parts of entering a corporate partnership or gaining a new corporate client is collaboration. This means you’ll need to show in your pitch that you’re an agile thinker and you’re adaptable. Don’t go in with a fixed idea and a stubborn attitude towards change. 

Modifications to your vision will be inevitable, so ensure that you prepare yourself for that and show the pitching room that you’re open to negotiations that will work for both parties. Just make sure you think beforehand about how far you’re willing to go and set that boundary.

Be Open and Bring Questions 

The relationship needs to work both ways. Although the idea of having a corporate client or partner might be initially exciting, you need to want to work with them too. So bring questions to ask during your pitch to discover whether you share values and have a similar outlook and ethos on conducting business. Are they going to be the right fit for you? And will they want to do the best by your product or idea? You can also request a debrief to review the pitch and learn how you matched up against the competition.

Make sure you leave time in your pitch to answer questions they have at the end – this is a crucial part of the process.

Check the Small Print

Although pitching to a big name is exciting, make sure you’re not blindsided by it. Keep a clear focus on your goals, and make sure you’ll be able to achieve those things within whatever their terms might be. Whilst these relationships can be invaluable, they need to be the right fit for both parties involved, so make sure the figures are correct, and you’re getting paid exactly what you and your vision are worth.

Plus X innovation hubs facilitates connections between corporates and innovative startups and scaleups. Become a member or join an innovation programme to join our startup network.

For corporate innovation, find out more about how we can support your organisational or sustainable materials challenges with our expert team of innovation specialists. 

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