This is Part 2 of a four-part series about things you should know about the entire value chain of doing business development and partnerships at a startup company. The posts are skewed for product integrations on third-party websites. Part 1 can be found here.
While all the phases of the partnership cycle are equally important, a lot of emphasis is put on pitching. This is because if you don’t do a good job at getting the other side excited about what you are offering, then you are probably SOL.
Doing Research and Understanding Other Companies
When getting ready for your call or meeting with a company there a few things you can do ahead of time to prepare yourself for success. Any research should be done before to holistically understand the company; it shouldn’t only be memorization of a fact sheet (although you should also know that). To understand another company holistically there are a few things you can do. You can read their blog, read any press they have had in the past few months, if they aren’t public- you can talk to their investors, if they are public- you should talk to any of their partners, etc. If you can do the proper research then you’ll be able to position your offering to touch upon what they find important or are focused on.
The Actual Pitch
My pitching style has changed in the past two years. I used to come in with a proper pitch deck and go through the entire deck, slide by slide. Anytime the conversation would drift to something else, I would try to steer it back to the deck. I had moderate success with my pitches. I’m not sure what it was, but eventually I decided to ditch the proper deck and instead go with a different strategy.
My current pitching strategy starts off by asking two questions to the company I am actually pitching. It’s nothing too personal, but the fact of the matter is, when I go into pitch a company, I am actually missing some crucial information about the company. Namely, (1) what are they focused on now and (2) what is important to them. Once I find this out, I will know whether my offering is relevant for them or not. This is probably the most important part of the pitch and shouldn’t be overlooked. Since changing my strategy, and getting answers to those two crucial questions, my success has been much higher.
After getting these answers I will instantly know whether what I am working on (and offering them) will actually be worthwhile in their eyes. If it still is, then I go into the pitch (and if not, then either end the meeting or just give them a short overview and then end the meeting). Instead of using the deck, I like to give the other side an overview and just demo the product. There is nothing better than jumping into the demo. At Dwolla, that means sending them money to their email address (ranging from 1 to 10 cents). It’s hard to complain about a demo when you end up with some extra money :D
A big part of the pitch is being able to tell a good story. Sometimes you have something exciting right now (or imminently releasing) for them and other times you are trying to figure out what that killer offering will be. Whichever it is, craft a good story, and make a good case on why they would want to partner with you.
To really put together a good story, and a compelling case for anyone to want to partner with you, you’ll need to understand how to close deals. Which is why pitching and closing go hand and hand. Tomorrow I will post Part 3 of the four-part series, which goes through how to actually close deals.