Business development is a key driver for your success as an entrepreneur. To sell your product, you have two options. You can sell a few units to many customers , which requires lots of marketing dollars and sales support. Or, you can focus on selling to businesses.
We chose the second path for my hardware startup, SkyBell. As a co-founder, I lead business development efforts that have landed deals with the biggest companies in the Internet of Things space, such as Amazon, Nest, Honeywell and Alarm.com.
Closing big deals with big companies is not easy. Compared to working with smaller companies, the demands are greater and the negotiations are more intense. But they're the catalyst for rapid growth your startup needs.
Here are five lessons I learned from closing large deals with the biggest companies in our space:
Big deals require lots of listening
Before a big meeting, my co-founder asked me for my plan. I said, "My goal is for 90 percent of the words I say to be in the form of a question."
In such big deals, the needs of the customer are complex. To close these deals, you need to ask questions and learn as much as possible about the customer's needs, strengths, weaknesses, decision-making process, and brand.
Sales isn't about smooth talking or fancy tactics. It's about active listening. Let the other person to do most of the talking - chime in mostly to ask clarifying questions and provide relevant information when asked. Also, you can be more likable by not interrupting.
Big companies prioritize their brand
Amazon, Apple and Google are amongst the best brands in the world because they built superior products and prioritized the customer experience. Their goal is to protect that brand at all costs.
Big companies will evaluate your product simply on whether it meets their brand standards. They will only trust their brand with the highest-quality products with the best user experiences.
Many people influence the decision
One big misconception about big B2B deals is that your contact makes the decision.
As a founder or CEO, you can make decisions at your startup quickly and unilaterally. But big companies like Amazon, Google and Honeywell do not operate like a startup. Big purchase decisions require multiple levels of approval and input from multiple departments.
When pitching to these bigger companies, ask about the decision-making process and who's involved. That's also a great time to ask what the priorities are for each department.
There's more to it than just the product
The decision on your product is made by a collaboration from multiple departments. In many cases, adding your product or service will impact other departments, like operations, customer support and sales.
You can win a lot of favor by anticipating the needs of the operations and support team up front. During the sales process, ask questions about how your product may impact those departments and create potential solutions to mitigate the impact.
For example, we designed a customer support process that let a B2B customer forward inbound customer service calls directly to us. End-customers weren't required to hang up and call us directly. Our customer appreciated the effort.
Big deals require patience
Closing big deals requires a lot of time. It often takes one to two years. Know that going in. And be patient. Support their decision-making process and be patient as it progresses.
When times are slow, avoid constantly reaching out--which makes you look desperate. When my deals slowed down, I sent emails every month or so to check in and let them know I was available if they needed me. I'd also share some good news about our product and company to keep them excited about our deal.
Putting it all together
Effective business development requires closing the big deals you need for big growth. You have to understand each company's decision-making process and be patient as multiple departments hash out the details.
Be prepared to sell a corporation on why your product enhances their brand--and create a vision that demonstrates value for both sides.