Landing the corporate client ‘holy grail’

Many individuals and smaller service providers are trying to break into the corporate supply chain. Thankfully, the trend at the moment is for corporates to support local providers and social enterprises. However, it can be difficult to know what approach to take to secure corporate clients, especially if you don’t have any experience in the space.

I think it’s about getting the right balance. You want to prepare a ‘pitch’ of sorts, but you want to keep it brief, visual and text light. In my experience of considering such pitches, I would advise that you assume the reader has no more than a few minutes to skim what you’ve sent through, if any. Really, you want to secure a discussion, ideally face-to-face, with more than one stakeholder represented if you can. Your materials are a fall-back. I would assume a short attention span from listeners, don’t waste face time you secure paging through a presentation! Be present and listen to what they want, who the relevant gate keepers are on decisions and what the possible barriers could be. Of course ensure you’ve done the background work and can provide precise detail where asked.

When pitching, keep your content relevant by putting yourself in the client’s shoes. A good habit is to imagine you are continually asked “so what?” and “what’s in it for me?” and include how you would respond to these questions in the information you choose to highlight. If you haven’t already, watch Simon Sinek in this famous clip on starting with the why.

You want to provide some structure to your offering, while remaining sufficiently flexible and responding carefully to the company’s needs. It is a positive to offer something that could interest more than one department or business jurisdiction, be aware though of the danger of your pitch sliding through the cracks between them.

Often providers are hesitant to provide cost breakdowns early on in the discussion. However, ballpark figures are actually very helpful. It lets the person gauge at what level internal approval would be needed. This will affect their considerations regarding whether the timing is right to pursue such an approval. Timing is everything.

I would encourage would-be providers to stagger the options they present. It’s a good idea to include the ‘Rolls Royce’ and the ‘VW’ offering, and perhaps something in between. Having both ends of the spectrum on the table increases your chances of striking the right chord.

Including a partnership proposal in your pitch is great if the client is looking for a longer term engagement. However, if you’ve done your research and your proposition fits squarely with their values and strategic focus, they might already, depending on the stage they are at, have established partners. All the better then, if you’ve included once-off engagement opportunities as well, or flexibility to dovetail with existing partners.

Employees in the CSR and sustainability space in particular are thinly spread. They are called upon to have a huge variety of skills from public speaking and workshop facilitation, to social media and research skills, to spreadsheets and number crunching. The broad spectrum required means there will inevitably be gaps and areas where the team are weaker, be it: public speaking, brainstorming fresh engagement initiatives, preparing presentations, drafting award applications, etc.. In some cases, teams need an external voice, because their own staff feel tired of hearing them ‘banging their own drum’ or because the external person will be considered by them to be more of an ‘expert’, just for being external.

Whatever the situation, spend time finding out where the gaps might be and where you can make the team’s lives easier. Your aim is to get your contact passionate enough about securing your help that they take ownership of motivating internally for signoff on the spend.

Once you’re in contact, keep an ear out, you never know when the opportunity to get a toe in the door might come. Another speaker cancelled at the last minute? You’re available and keen to help! Deliver a brilliant service and the momentum will build from there…

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