A lot of startups target large businesses as their primary clients, hoping to charge them substantial sums instead of trying to crack the B2C model.
However, there are a couple of reasons why this plan is not as easy to pull off as it may seem.
1. You need to already have a reputation
For a large company to entrust you and contract you, it takes a lot of other large business to have done so first. In two words, it's a Catch-22 situation. Reputation is everything and corporations or governments need to see that you are already a trustworthy service provider. Not only would they have their own reputation on the line when associating themselves with you, but their whole cyber security could be compromised in some cases. For instance, in 2019 Russia's top intelligence agency, FSB, had a contractor of theirs hacked, which led to the leak of FSB's top secret projects.
2. You need to approach the right decision-makers
More often than not, the most important decision-maker you need to get in touch with is not the CEO - nor the office manager. You usually need to contact the mid-level executives. On one hand, they have enough power and authority to take into consideration any proposal you may have for them and move it upwards. Plus, they are probably not as occupied as the top-level executives and are more likely to pay attention to you. It is important to keep in mind their motivations for doing so - they usually strive to climb up the ladder so any solution that they implement and leads to saving the company money could allow them to claim higher bonuses or be promoted.
3. Build a solid relationship with them
The key decision-makers that you engage with need to not only like your product - but you as a person as well. Building relationships takes weeks, months, sometimes even years. You need to remember a lot of personal facts about them (kids' names, anniversaries, hobbies, etc.), so that you can demonstrate friendliness and genuine interest in their well-being.
And the bad news is that it is very easy to crumble. You let them down once and it's over. One failed demo or blunder could be the end of all the time you've invested in nurturing these relations.
4. You need to talk to them face-to-face
This is not a matter of a few emails or a video chats. Despite living in the age of the Internet, you have to interact with your prospects in a live environment. Go to a restaurant, have lunch together, why not even play golf? Body language is hard to read via Zoom and people who do business with you want to evaluate you thoroughly. Be ready to spend a few bucks to fly to other countries or even continents in order to have a one-hour face-to-face meeting with the decision-makers.
5. Big businesses make decisions slowly
Don't expect that just because you've had a couple of successful meetings and the executives really like you, they would sign up a contract with you within a week or two. Large companies have implemented complex inter-related processes that are not easy to disrupt. Oftentimes a couple of head of departments need to be briefed about your product and need to give their feedback - which leads to a time-consuming back-and-forth communication.
6. They don't want you working for the competition
In the case of B2C when the customer is content, they'd be happy to recommend you and your solution to others. In the case of B2B, however, your product or service could turn into one of the company's secret recipes for their success. Competing CEOs would rarely openly share to each other all the tools they utilize to run their business effectively. Unfortunately, this translates into a practically non-existent word-of-mouth and a lower net promoter score.
7. You become dependent on them
Let us not be mistaken, you need them just as much as they need you. And they realize that. So some of the more ruthless business-savvy executives may twist your arm to offer them better terms such as discounted rates - or otherwise they leave. For them finding a replacement could be less time-consuming than for you to fill in their spot. So you always need to keep that in mind and try to expand as much as possible your client base in order to not depend on a single enterprise.
8. Your customer support often needs to be 24/7
If a lot of company employees need to interact with your solution, you have to be ready to help them learn it. Try to flatten the learning curve as much as possible. And even more importantly, you'd need to fix any unforeseen issues ASAP. If their process, operations or clients depend your solution, then every single minute that it doesn't work may lead to great losses on their behalf.
Of course, not everything is black and white. If you do manage to win over such a big client, the cost for them to replace you may be too high so you'd be certain that you'd be having a solid revenue stream. Nonetheless, do take into consideration everything listed in this article when trying to win over top tier clients.