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heather-lowe

FNB manager details six ways startups can improve their pitch to a corporate

One of the worse things a tech entrepreneur looking to pitch to a corporate can do, is to send one liners to corporate managers asking for individuals to call them, says FNB’s head of enterprise development Heather Lowe.

“The bank is a business and as you would expect, it is not obliged to simply spend time and resources following up with no ends. Businesses need to take the pitch seriously from the onset,” she says.

Stakeholders are busy and quite often one has one chance to make an impression, says FNB head

The advice is one of six tips she says startups should follow when pitching to corporates. “The manner in which an early-stage business approaches the bank or any corporate for that matter is really important, as stakeholders are busy and quite often one has one chance to make an impression,” says Lowe.

To improve their pitches, she says startups should look at the following six tips:

1.Research is vital

You may understand your product or service offering, but you still need to sell it – no product speaks for itself, says Lowe.

“Understand what specific problem or gap your business can address in the bank by researching how things are currently done, who current providers are (you would do this as part of your business case when you were starting up the business).

“You need to share why your business would be able to do it better or faster or cheaper than the current processes or than the current service providers. In the absence of this information, you are effectively doing a cold-call sale, and are unlikely to be able to engage in a compelling manner which demonstrates your ability to add value to the business of your customer – the bank,” says Lowe.

2.Get to the correct business unit

Always engage the area where your product or service offering is “consumed”. Navigating the corporate buying process is probably one of the most challenging aspects of a business selling to a corporate, says Lowe.

“It is important for you to very quickly get to the unit or people that ‘champion’ your pitched offering in the bank as they will sell upwards or laterally on your behalf. Just taking a number or name off the internet and then emailing and asking that person to direct you or put you in contact rarely ever works in your favour,” she says.

3.Always send an introductory mail

A well-worded mail with a proposal attached goes a long way. If you just ask for a meeting, you will rarely get it, says Lowe.

“Stakeholders do not have time for three or four meetings to get to a proposal, and want to be able to assess your offering before they meet you so they can prepare accordingly. Attach a proposal of what you feel you can offer the bank, not a brochure of what you do,” she says.

“The bank is looking for solutions and you need to demonstrate how your offering serves them, not the other way around. Brochures are received in large volumes.”

4.Do not send a one liner asking for the individual to call you

The bank is a business and is not obliged to simply spend time and resources following up with no ends. Businesses need to take the pitch seriously from the onset, says Lowe.

5.Grammar counts

“Use correct punctuation and spelling and grammar in your mail and ensure you have the name of the person you are addressing correct,” says Lowe. She says if a first impression is a misspelt email with no capital letters, an entrepreneur has already lost their credibility.

6.Invest in your materials

Ensure that you are professionally presented to the bank. “Do not send your whole business case or business plan, remember that this is a pitch. Always remember that what the bank is interested in is you providing clarity on what you are trying to sell and why the bank should buy it,” says Lowe.

She says entrepreneurs should highlight their offering and mention why it is competitive, what gap it serves, why the bank and you need it specifically, and how you are going to add value to the bank’s business.

Lowe says it is also important to include information on your team experience.

“References and clients you have worked for before also add to your credibility significantly. It is one thing to pitch an idea, but it is just as important to get a sense of how realistic it is that you are able to run what you are pitching successfully at any level,” she says.

Want to learn more about pitching to corporates? Read Ventureburn’s series below.

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