Approaching Enterprise Companies

Founder Series: Reaching out to enterprise comapanies for partnership and acquisition 🚀

Image credit: Unsplash

If you’re a start up founder, or work at a company that is trying to build a B2B or enterprise product, you might think getting companies to use your technology is easy. But just because you build a great product that solves a problem doesn’t mean that companies are going to be reaching out to get access to your tech.

You will need to spend time getting customers. Most partnerships are a result of personal connections. If you are not well connected to the types of companies that you are looking to work with, this can feel like a daunting task. Here are some pieces of advice for how to organize potential leads when you want to start reaching out to companies.

1. Brainstorm who you want to reach out to

Spend some time and be creative. There are probably obvious use cases for your product, but try to push beyond that and think out of the box. Think about adjacent markets, and if there are ways for those companies to make use of what you’ve built, or how you can bridge different industry sectors.

2. Make a List

There are tons of tools, but this is really just making a spreadsheet. You use Excel, Airtable, or a CRM tool. Make a list of the options - I have 82 companies on my last spreadsheet - roughly sorted by priority. The fields I tracked were:

Assignee | Company | Type | Name | Title | LinkedIn | Notes | Status

My own spreadsheet for Tobiko partnerships

3. Research the company to find the best contact

Use Linked In to find the appropriate decision makers at the company you want to talk to - Head of Partnerships, Business Development, Corporate Development. Note anyone you have 1st or 2nd degree connections with.

If you know people at the companies in other roles, it can help to reach out to them and ask if they think they are in a position to make an intro. This is more likely to work at small companies where everyone knows each other. If the company is big enough that they’re just sending out a cold email, it’s probably not much better than you emailing directly.

4. Write a compelling message

I don’t think people are checking Linked In daily, so if you are able to email someone directly, you might get an answer faster. Either way, remember that people are busy, and you want to make it as easy as possible for someone to say yes to meet with you so you can tell them more. Draft a message that is clear, concise, and focuses on how you can solve a problem for them. Introduce yourself, describe your company in 1-2 sentences, and pitch how the value of a partnership. Ask for a conversation in the next week or two, and thank them for their time.

5. Ask for Intros

For the people you have a second degree connection to, reach out to that connection and ask if they would be open to making an introduction. I have found that 5-10 people I know tend to be connected to 70% or more of the employees I want to contact, so look for these people. Make it very easy to them by providing the message so they have something they can forward. These connectors are also busy, so be mindful of their time if you are asking them to make more that a few introductions. Follow up promptly, and move them to bcc so their inbox doesn’t get spammed.

5b. Sent people to your spreadsheet

This should be reserved for people you are close enough to that asking them to spend an hour to click through dozens of linked in urls is reasonable. Consider the super connectors you know - investors, sales and marketing friends - and share your spreadsheet so they can click on each person and let you know who they are able to connect you with.

6. Send your Cold Emails

I like to stagger these and start with medium priority companies. I want to save the companies at the top of my list for my second or third iteration, so I have time to adjust wording and wait for possible introductions. The response rate is low on cold emails, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not getting a ton of replies. I usually follow up after about a week with a short note, but just make sure you are respectful of the person’s time.

7. Update your spreadsheet

Keep your notes and status up to date so you know the latest on each communication, any action items you’re responsible for, and when to follow up. As you start to get replies, you will probably notice patterns around what companies are responding positively to you - industry, size, region. Double down on this to build up your base.

8. Final Thoughts

It is difficult to get your first paid partnership. Personal networks matter when it comes to who you can get a meeting with, but if you don’t have a network, it is possible to get a deal through persistence. I reached out to more than 50 people, and the two most successful conversations were from cold LinkedIn messages.

Malous Kossarian
Malous Kossarian
Founder, Product Manager, Entrepreneur

My interests include working with founders to build great products and companies, focused on sustainability, remote work, and SaaS businesses.