So, you want to do business with the big boys?
16 Jun 2023 - Frans Vanhaelewijck
If you’re reading this, you’re probably entertaining the idea of diving into the corporate world, and my guess is you’re eager but also a bit wary. Rightfully so; there are hurdles, many hurdles. Lengthy sales cycles, negotiations with procurement that feel like they’re straight out of a courtroom drama, contracts the size of a novel, and all the thrilling topics like insurance coverage, indemnification, SLAs, penalty clauses, and compliance requirements (ISO, HIPAA…). It doesn’t just seem like a lot, it is a lot.
The Team Behind Your Sponsor
In a typical big corporation, decision making is done by a team, not by a single decision-maker. It’s your job to identify who’s who in this game. Besides your sponsor, the one championing your cause within the corporation, you have business analysts, legal reps, members from the methods and tools group, compliance teams, team leads, architects, department heads, and even the CEO in certain cases. These are just examples. Spend the time and the effort to identify the roles in your case. There can easily be 10 to 15 names on your list and every one of them has their unique role and input. Identify and understand them and their concerns because any objection, any veto, any sliver of doubt, can halt or significantly delay the process.
Procurement teams are often viewed as the roadblock in your path, but they can actually be your secret ally. Their job is to ensure everything is handled appropriately in terms of procurement, but they also serve their internal customers, i.e., other departments within the organization. Find out what they are measured on, help them achieve their goals, and you might just find a cooperative partner in them. However, let’s be real, there are instances where the margin for negotiation is slim and their focus is solely on discounts. In these cases, aim for understanding and transparency to smooth the process.
Understanding contract terms and legal language can seem daunting, however, it is not as difficult as it appears. Make sure to read our other blog post on specific contract clauses you need to know about.
Yes, you’ll need insurance. And not just any, but the one with a coverage limit that satisfies your customer’s requirements. If you can’t meet their insurance needs, negotiate for them to pay the extra premium.
You typically need to agree on any indemnification clauses. Your customer will want you to be responsible for what you deliver, especially when issues like license problems arise. Let’s be clear, if it’s your mistake, you’re responsible. It’s fair and most corporates will demand it, so prepare for it.
So, Why Bother…
You might be thinking, “Why bother with all these?” The answer is simple. The payout. Sure, signing these contracts can take months, if not years, to negotiate, but the returns can be transformative for your business. Be ready to multiply your prices. These customers are high maintenance and expect you to deliver that support. A purchase order of $10,000 or $65,000 requires almost the same effort. So why not aim higher?
A few of these contracts can keep your business and team thriving for years. The extra zeroes on your invoice not only account for your product but also for the premium service and commitment your customer will demand.
You Can Still Say No
However, always remember, you have the right to say no. Navigating the corporate world is not for everyone. It’s fraught with politics and risks that may not align with your vision or risk appetite. Remember, you are dealing with professionals that have been in the corporate world for 10 or 15 years or more. They know the ins and outs, and they won’t hesitate to use that knowledge to their advantage. Their job, job security, and seniority are much more important to them than your product or service offering. That’s okay; that’s how the world works. If you can help them move forward, reduce risk, improve profitability, or speed up operations, you can make them a hero in their organization. And that will bring you business.
Stepping into the corporate world can be intimidating, but it also offers a sea of opportunities. Take your time, do your homework, and be prepared for a journey that could significantly impact your business for the better.
Good luck, and may your corporate endeavors be a success.