This is more of a continuing series of tips for B2B startups that are trying to develop pilot projects.
A big question for B2B startups is, “how do you find your way into an organization?”
This topic brings up a wide range of considerations such as who is the person most interested in your solution, where are they in the management hierarchy, what decision making authority do they have as it relates to your solution, and what budget (if any) have they allocated for it. These questions are only scratching the surface as in later posts you’ll see that we get into process issues in the organization including legal sign-offs and procurement processes. A most critical consideration in the short-term, however, is finding your key supporter (often called “sponsor”) who will help you shepherd this project through the organization and will help you to find others that you will need to secure the deal and then even others who will ultimately implement and support it.
But words of caution: it’s very important to think like the customer and consider things such as individual reputation, budget, capability, capacity, among others. Who is going to bat to you and what is their motivation? What happens if your sponsor leaves the organization? Is your solution something they urgently need or are they lying to you to be nice and just dragging you along until they wear you out?
Sometimes it may be beneficial to reach out to the CEO or someone else in upper management. They may not respond to you directly but there is a chance that they will redirect you to the right person and that person will feel obligated to help you. However, this too can backfire. The person directed to help you may not be interested in what you are doing, and they can feel threatened or under undue pressure because upper management asked for this favor.
Even worse, consider the people in the organization with influence who may want to shut down your idea even if others are on board. You may also need to consider that you have a “sponsor” in the company for your solution but there could be another “sponsor” for a competing solution.
Regardless, start by finding your sponsor and then diligently map out all the key players who you need to get your pilot project underway.