Prospecting new business: how and why to pitch to start-ups

Lily Ruaah

Posted on: August 25, 2022

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Category: Prospecting

Prospecting new business: How and why to pitch to start-ups

blogpost image

Start-ups could easily be last on your prospecting list. And we wouldn’t blame you; in B2B sales, many naturally gravitate toward the high-ballers.

You might think that these businesses, with their big budgets and multiple teams, are the ideal customer to drive more revenue for your product or service.

But start-ups can be more open to new ideas, become customers for life, and give you a higher ROI in the long term.

Here’s not only why to pitch to start-ups but our how-to guide.

What is a start-up?

The age-old question: how long is a start-up a start-up? A start-up is just a relatively young company. Most people would consider a start-up to be a company that’s five years old or less.

But generally speaking, a start-up is a company in its early stages.

Why prospect start-ups?

A more likely market

One of the great opportunities when prospecting a start-up is that it’s more likely that they’re not already using a competitor. If you’re the first company to approach them, you’re more likely to be their first choice.

The key here is to understand your ideal customers, research your audience and finding the prospects facing the pain points that you target. Once you’ve established a prospect is in need of your product or service, contact the company’s decision maker quickly. Remember, you want to be the first company to approach them.

If they’re a very young start-up, they might not even know there are solutions like yours to fix their problems. Or, they might do but have not yet considered bringing in a partner to help. This is when you can swoop in and save the day – be the superhero that can say “hey, we can fix that issue”. 

Open to ideas

You might find that start-ups have a different attitude to being prospected. Young businesses don’t have established ways of doing things, which means they often have an open mind and are more willing to try new ideas to help their business succeed. 

Usually, they themselves are offering a new product or service so they might have a niche or specific problem that could use a fresh approach – that’s where you come in. Remember, not all heroes wear capes.

Start-up founders may be more likely to open prospecting emails. You might think a founder would be too busy to open a cold email but let’s be honest, we’d all go a bit Type A (just think of Amy from Brooklyn 99) when starting up a business. What if you missed something important? Everything must be checked, opened, read, and checked again.

This is reflected in our data on prospecting emails. Nine out of the top ten open rates by job title include the word Founder. ‘Chairman & Founder’ and ‘Founder & Creative Director’ receive the highest joint Open Rate of 55.3%. Find out more about email open rates by job title in our whitepaper: The State of Prospecting

While ‘Founder’ doesn’t necessarily mean the company is a start-up, it can imply that a company is younger – the founder isn’t kicking back on a beach somewhere enjoying a rich retirement after several years of successful business running. 

It’s all about resources 

Or in the case of a start-up, the lack of resources. Young business owners might be doing it alone or with a very small team, meaning manpower is one of their biggest pain points. If your offering can support them in running their business more efficiently, you could be a great asset to them. 

In most start-ups, often each person will do the work of many, but that’s not always the most successful way to work. Hiring someone new can be very expensive, but finding the right supplier to assist you could be an affordable alternative. This can be a great way to pitch your product or service to a new business.

Long-term investment

Prospect to a start-up and you could have a customer for life.

Establishing a strong relationship with a business from its early years can lead to a strong sales relationship. This business will trust you and are unlikely to swap company unless there’s a serious problem.

It could also lead to more referrals. Founders often come together to discuss ideas and get advice, so they may recommend your amazing product or service as part of that. 

B2B companies with referrals experience a 70% higher conversion rate. So it really pays to have someone referring your company to their friends, peers, and other business founders. We even created our own community for founders, Founders Hub,  because we know how important it is for businesses to support one another. 

How to prospect to start-ups

Prospecting a start-up

Prospecting a start-up isn’t wildly different from prospecting any kind of business. You still need to do all the same steps:

  1. Research your market, your competitors, and potential customers
  2. Use B2B market segmentation to categorise your audiences
  3. Gather the data, work out the pain points for each segment
  4. Contact your prospects (using personalised, conversational email templates)!
  5. Send follow-up emails to those that don’t initially reply
  6. Monitor what worked well, and keep making adjustments
  7. Optimise your sales pipeline to get the most from your leads

This is a basic overview of prospecting and there’s a banquet of more information on our website. Find out more about prospecting in our blog: Intelligent prospecting

How is pitching to a start-up different?

Although the sales process is the same, there are some differences in how you approach a start-up, and that usually lies in the pitch. We’ve all heard of the elevator pitch. Well, your initial prospecting email needs to be “pitch perfect” (terrible joke, sorry).

A good pitch will always recongise your client’s pain points and explain how you can help solve that issue. An established business might already have an authority on how to solve that issue or the options out there, whereas a start-up might not.

This provides an opportunity, but also means you should adjust your outreach.

First, you may need to educate a start-up more than a bigger business. Second, 

you can establish yourself as top of the market from the off. Before they even begin researching other companies, you can tell them “we’re better than x, y, and z because…”. 

Address your strong points, plant seeds of doubt about your competitors and their solution. If you’re lucky, they won’t even look at the other options on the market. But if they do, you’ve molded the conversation – telling them the important aspects to look for, and then you’re more likely to close a deal.  

Imagine walking into a supermarket for the first time ever. You want a packet of crisps but you’ve never bought crisps before (a sheltered existence admittedly, but you are in for a treat!) and there’s a shelf packed full of different brands – Chilli Heatwave Doritos, Walker’s Cheese and Onion, Spicy Niknaks, maybe even some Paprika Pringles (if you’re lucky) – how are you supposed to know what to get? 

Now imagine there’s a sales rep there, and they hand you a packet of Walker’s Cheese and Onion (are we all imagining Gary Lineker as the sales rep?). So Gary says, “these are the best ones: great crunch, superb flavour, and they don’t stain your fingers orange with crisp dust”. It’s your first-ever crisp purchase, you didn’t know about the Doritos crisp dust. So you trust Gary’s judgment, he obviously know what he’s talking about. 

This is the same when prospecting to a start-up. You can be the Gary Lineker of industry – get in there before anyone else does and tell them your product or service is the best one on the market.

Key points to take away

We all love a summary. Why read the whole article when you can just read the main points? Sorry, I put it at the end. But then you wouldn’t have enjoyed the crisps analogy. 

So, here are our key points to take away when prospecting start-ups:

  1. Be a superhero by swooping in and offering start-ups a solution they hadn’t even thought about
  2. Be a superhero again and help out a young business in their time of need
  3. Be Gary Lineker and establish your product or service as the best on the market 

Start-ups could be your ideal customers, and here at Sopro, we’re here to help you target those potential customers in the best way possible. We’re not just a tool, we’re a team – a team of prospecting experts ready to help you level up your business and improve your ROI.

Sell more.

Related articles

c2
3rd Oct

The December Dip is coming – but stop prospecting at your peril

Steve Harlow

It feels odd talking about winter when we’ve spent the last few months melting in various heatwaves, but with school …

B2B sales Prospecting
c2
30th Aug

Prospecting etiquette: 5 rules for being the perfect inbox guest

Colette Hagan-Young

Writing a cold outreach email can be a daunting task – like turning up at a stranger’s house and asking …

Prospecting
c2
18th Aug

Are my open rates a lie?: False opens in Gmail

Lily Ruaah

Our open rates are amazing. The average across all industries is 21.5%, according to Campaign Monitor. But our average since …

Prospecting