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10 tips to sell your start-up tech to big companies

As COO of small business networking and support group Enterprise Nation, Alexis Liming knows a thing or two about selling new technology into established companies.

He recently hosted Enterprise Nation’s ‘The Tech Exchange’ (#TechExchange), part of a series of events to help demystify how small business owners can sell in to big companies and the government.

The event, appropriately hosted at tech accelerator WAYRAs London offices featured buyers (or similar) from O2 Business, Microsoft, Fujitsu, LMarks (the people behind John Lewis’ JLab) and Sodexo, as well as directors from agencies Iris and M&C Saatchi PR, journalists and editors from Tech Dot London, The Memo and Tech City News and WAYRA success story Rotageek.

Alexis Liming, COO of Enterprise Nation


Alexis’s top tips for tech selling include:


1. Keep your eyes open. When you go in to big company procurement, defined processes and systems across multiple teams mean it will take time.

2. Don’t go scatter gun. Focus on a few companies for which you can solve a problem, relieve some pain or significantly enhance something they are doing. Do your homework and get to know these companies inside out so you are relatable.

3. Face time is still the most valuable and memorable way to connect. So first, leverage and grow your network to get face time, and secondly, when you get it, make it count – sell yourself, but be honest and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

4. Every interaction is two-way. It’s not just about selling to them, make sure you are listening to what they’re saying, take in what’s on the walls and what is going on around you – this is all invaluable information you can use in your next interaction – you’ll never find this stuff anywhere else.

5. Get a foot in the door. Yes, you want the big deal, but don’t be afraid to start small – you never know what a small test in a store or at an event can lead to. Rotageek was first tested in a few O2 stores and is now being rolled out across the UK.

6. Be flexible with your pricing. It’s much easier to renegotiate terms if you’ve already proved the value of your product or service (don’t forget – as much as this is scary for you, the big company is taking a risk too).

7. Learn from experience. If you don’t have it, go and find it. Tap in to those people who have been there and done it. This may be a formal mentoring relationship, or it may simply be a conversation over a brew or two.

8. Make it easy for the buyer. Get in their mind – think about the risks they’re worried about and tackle them head on – how will you mitigate those risks?

9. Back up your claims. Have a working prototype and ensure your financials stack up (don’t try and make unreasonable margins).

10. And don’t forget the cash. Your business will only survive (and fulfil any commitment) if it has cash. Don’t be afraid to ask about payment terms.

Enterprise Nation launched in 2005 and has since helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder Emma Jones MBE, it’s also a leading campaigning voice for small business with the Government.

O2 Business customer? Want expert business support free for 12 months? Sign up free to Enterprise Nation.

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