How We Served 100+ Corporate Clients In The Last 3 Years
Since I started the business, we have served the largest companies of thousands of people and the smallest companies of just 10 people. From MNCs like Cisco, WeWork, KPMG, EY, Xiaomi to Indian companies like Practo, 91 springboard, Phable Care, MaxLite and Makemytrip we've served many people but I still think we have barely scratched the surface. Today, I'm sharing some of my experiences.
In 2019, I walked into a conference room, greeted by the General Manager of a company along with two of his top executives. I’m not from a corporate background, so walking into these office buildings itself is a thing of discomfort for me. I remember doing a 6 week internship that was a desk job during college at an MNC and thinking to myself that I never want to choose this as a career. There is nothing particularly bad about it – but the silence of the hallway, the seriousness on everyone’s face and the cubicle format just made me feel very uneasy in my stomach. It made me feel like I didn’t belong.
Now that I was walking down a similar hallway, I reminded myself to straighten my back – I was representing my business and that was something to be proud of. I got this meeting as a reference from another client, who called this person as soon as I requested her for an introduction and insisted that “he must meet Megna.”
A photo before my first corporate meeting - 10.01.2018
When I saw him, I realized he must have been 20-25 years more senior than I was and the two ladies sitting next to him were also easily 10-15 years older than me too. But that’s not why I wanted to exit the room almost immediately. When I shook hands with the second lady, both her and I understood that this was not our first interaction. Coincidentally, a week ago I got her reference from another client – I was trying to pitch my product to her over call and she kept brushing me away, the way you would do to a credit card agent. Now that her general manager was introducing us, she was obliged to shake my hand. It was embarrassing and comical at the same time.
Just as I realized how senior they were, they must have also realized how young I was, 23 years old – just beginning my business. My voice doesn’t help either, I am well aware that I sound like a child so in the first impression many people don’t take me seriously. The ladies suggested that I do free events for them, even distribute free samples because it will “give me so much exposure to work with their huge brand.” She gave me examples of many startups who regularly do free work with them like this.
I nodded respectfully until they had finished speaking. Then I showed them my side, not by talking about my product – but by pointing to their competitors. I described in detail the success I had while working with their competitors and the value I had created for them. They didn’t expect it, I could see that. They knew, that neither my voice nor my age mattered – because work speaks louder than anything else. I quoted my price and we started working together. As a matter of fact, in the year 2020, they were my top client.
The Power Of References
Once, a customer from the neighboring building came into our kitchen to buy cupcakes. She had to wait a few mins until our team finished packing it, so I casually (but strategically) asked her what she did and where she worked. Even 3-4 lines of conversation, is mostly enough to build trust. After a couple of days, I asked her for her HRs email ID – I got in touch and we had an order of 80 gift boxes from them for Diwali. This hasn’t been a one off thing for me – everyone from the uncle you meet in the elevator to the old school teacher you bump into at the grocery store can be the source of a reference. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Find Yourself A Sam
Breaking The Ice
Depending on the sense I got from our conversation, I would pitch in different facts about myself that may be similar to their background. If I sensed they’re from north India, I’d drop a few hindi words and tell them I’m from Rajasthan. If I sensed they’re from Bangalore, I’d tell them where I studied and invariably find a common connection. Most times – I’d even go into a meeting after having explored their social media profiles to see if there is anything that I can discuss to break the ice.
But in business, everyone needs to be a friend. You never know who you are going to bump into and you don’t want to pick a fight unnecessarily. This is not to say that you shouldn’t stick to your values – don’t do anything that goes against your principles because that’s what shapes your character.
There was a time when a lady from a very large company gave us one of the biggest orders we had gotten till that moment. It was a huge deal for us. After successful delivery of the order, she wanted a cake for her personal use at the same discounted price as what we had given for the company. It was just a few hundred rupees of discount for us, but it could have meant that we would get continuous bulk orders from that company. But the thought that she was using her position to get a discount from us just did not sit well in my mind. I told her I’ll sell it to her at retail prices or not at all. We never got any more business from that company and I’m perfectly fine with living with that fact.
Things Don’t Always Go As Planned
The Real Question
If you haven't used LinkedIn actively yet, Vaibhav Sisinty's 5-Day Workshop is was one of the best resources I can point you towards. For Rs. 500, his pre-recorded videos + live sessions format works really well irrespective of how you are trying to leverage LinkedIn. He shares tools that will speeden up the painful process of finding new leads and at the end of the day, the more time you save - the more people you can reach.
Apart from building your own clientele, you should also build relationships with third parties who get clients for you. Every industry has these types of people, you just need to identify them. In our case, they might be event companies that work with corporate clients. You might even find independent sales people who are ready to bring their own list of established relationships. There is no doubt that you will need to give up a chunk of commission in each of these cases.
But I learnt that it doesn’t matter how big your slice of the pie is, what matters is - how big is your pie?
Tell me your if you've had some insane experiences and I'd love to exchange interesting stories with you!