How to get your first 5 large enterprise clients without spending too much money?
1. Focus on an industry/sector. You'll find large companies across multiple sectors. But focus on 1 sector, to begin with. Because if you already have 3 customers from a sector, acquiring 4th in the same sector is easy. We focused on BFSI during the early days. Our first few clients were State Bank, SBI Life, ICICI Bank, SBI Mutual Fund and Kotak Bank. All from the same sector. If you already have a few customers from an industry, acquiring others becomes easy because you can show case studies and provide references and testimonials.
2. Ask for references from your advisors. Why should Banks like ICICI bother talking to a 21-year-old founder for an unknown software product? Because they got your reference from someone they trust. Of course, they'll do your due diligence. But a reference helps get that first meeting. In my case, an advisor of mine helped me get that first reference.
3. Ask for references in your College Alumni network. Being from IIT Bombay helped me crack so many enterprise customers just because a.) the reference was given by an IITB Alum and b.) the customer on the other side was an IITB Alum. The trust factor becomes 10x. If you don't have a strong college network, explore other ways to find affiliated customers.
4. Just reach out. I wrote a LinkedIn message to the CEO of a large Insurance company and he immediately sent me his email ID and asked me to share our PPT. He connected me with his team. A few months later they were our paying client. Reach out to 100 prospects on LinkedIn. 10 will reply. 5 will see the demo. 1 will purchase. Want to sell to 5? Reach out to 500.
5. Ask Customer for references. A large stock broking firm became our customer just because their parent entity (the Bank) gave them our reference. Getting a reference from their parent entity gave them a lot of comfort because the Bank had already done our due diligence.
What really worked for us was:
1. References from our Advisors were the major contributor.
2. We Acquired the Bank as the customer and so, easily got references to the other group entities (Stock Broking, Insurance, NBFC, Mutual Fund, etc.).
1. What worked for me may not work for you. Experiment with what could work in your industry and iterate.
2. It was not easy. Getting the first 5 large clients is really really difficult.