Convincing a large group is the Holy Grail for any young company, with the promise of a big contract in sight. But then, they often do it very badly. “The classic mistake of start-ups is to sell a product they are proud of”, stressed Anne-Sophie Gervais and Noé Gersanois, co-directors of RaiseSherpas. These two support specialists for start-ups recommend identifying a major account problem and finding a solution.
Choosing the wrong interlocutor is the second wrong step. “Start-ups want to act very quickly, but poor targeting can waste valuable time,” explains Fabrice Marsella, CA Village director. Before interacting with a large group, he therefore recommends “deciphering the way it operates, the internal decision-making process and its temporality to meet the right people.”
Monitoring social networks, especially LinkedIn, is a must for quickly scanning a group’s internal organization.
Establish an equal relationship
Once the right person (s) have been identified, in innovation, purchasing or even in an operational department, it will be easier to convince and make them allies. Because interpersonal relationships are essential to a successful partnership. “The start-up is playing for its life whereas for the large group, it is an appointment like the others on its agenda”, warns Fabrice Marsella. According to him, the words are trust and transparency. And it starts with humility. “The start-up must clearly state what it can do and must not over-sell its capacities. »
As Tom Thumb faces a giant, we need to give reassurance. Daniel Monjaraz is the co-founder of Green Phoenix, a start-up that recovers bio-waste. It works with two large companies in the Bas-Rhin: Lingenheld Environnement and Electricité de Strasbourg. “Facing companies this big, you have to be prepared and honor your promises. And above all, show a lot of seriousness. Because, as we are start-ups, we have no room for error.»
But strong in its position, the large group may tend to set the bar relatively high, to demand a very high level of commitment, to show contracts to its advantage and, typically, not pay for prototypes. In this case, a start-up should not hesitate to negotiate, or even refuse terms that do not apply to it, especially “if it finds that the primary account only wants to do exploratory work, that will waste time and will not lead to any value creation, ”said Gwen Salley, head of partnerships and large group relations at Station F.
So forget about free proof of concept! Or exclusive contracts that prevent start-ups from canvassing other potential customers. Despite the size difference, Noé Gersanois from RaiseSherpas advises concluding “a pre-contract so that the start-up can find itself in a more comfortable situation, almost in a relationship of equals”.
Measure financial performance
Starting with a concrete and solid foundation is a guarantee of success. The preliminary agreement must mention each other’s contributions, obligating the main accounts to identify the financial and human resources made available to the project. For start-ups, this is a guarantee of visibility, as pointed out by Julie Davico-Pahin, co-founder of Ombrea. This start-up will develop agricultural crop protection panels, controlled according to shade requirements and equipped with photovoltaic cells. Ombrea has entered into a partnership with Total Energies. “We are very ambitious, we were ten at the beginning of the partnership and we are close to fifty. Honestly, Total gave us a group of thirty people. »
For start-ups, the counterpart is the measurement of performance and the definition of the keys to success. “You also need to frame financial performance management from the start so that both parties are on the same wavelength”, explained Anne-Sophie Gervais of RaiseSherpas. If collaboration with a large group accelerates development, it is also accompanied by the implementation of new processes.
Carole Autechaud is the founder of Akanema, a start-up that specializes in human resources. He has been working with the Apicil insurance group for more than a year. “We have redefined the offers and planned a five-year commercial strategy, in addition to a funding plan for R&D”, he explains. This dynamic has already enabled it to take four people.