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Winning at B2B: know how big business thinks

In the second part of his series on how start-ups can do business with big companies, London accountant Jonathan Hollis outlines the importance of understanding how they think – remember, they are people too!

Jonathan Hollis

June 2019

Typically, the key difference between selling a business-to-business (B2B) rather than a business-to-consumer (B2C) proposition is that you are not selling to a single buyer who has the ability to make a split second decision on their mobile phone, but to a group of people.

However, it’s easy to forget that you are not selling to businesses either, but to people. We are not yet at the stage where business buying decisions are made by machines. Therefore, building long-lasting trusted relationships and putting your customer’s needs at the forefront of your value proposition remain the most important factors in making a sale.

So, how do large organisations think? Risk minimisation is a key determinant in purchase decisions. The biggest risk of working with early-stage companies is the potential for reputational damage and real negative impact on their customers. Keeping this front of mind will guide your conversations to ensure that you position your business as a safe bet, with appropriate controls and processes in place. But remember, if you paint yourself as a new company, this may also add a further risk that the service may not be delivered to a satisfactory level, or on time. Offset this by emphasing that your dedicated and agile team means that you can focus on them to ensure they get the best customer service possible. Many founders we work with avoid bringing up the size of the company to avoid the topic completely.

Make an impact on pain

You will therefore only make an impact if your business provides a practical, easy-to-use solution to a current pain point. Articulate exactly how your solution will:

  • Make their job easier, perhaps through speed and simplicity;
  • Save them money, perhaps through back office cost reductions; or,
  • Make them money, perhaps through greater customer engagement.

If you can’t, in the short term you will be forgotten as soon as the next meetings take over.

Jonathan Hollis manages PwC’s Scale and Raise programmes, helping early stage companies work with PwC’s corporate clients and raise institutional funding.

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