In days gone by, door-to-door salesmen were not uncommon. Although it still happens today, most of us would not consider doing business with anyone using that approach except, perhaps, for the neighborhood youngster who is selling cookies, popcorn, or raffle tickets for their local sports teams. There is, however, still a viable business for cold calling to find prospects. The effectiveness of this approach certainly varies. Unannounced knocking on a random front door seems to be a very impractical method for a David to employ to find a business partner.
Instead, Davids should have a clear understanding of who, or at least, what type of business partner they would like to engage with. The only question is how to find them and begin the relationship. Invariably Goliaths have multiple layers and different departments or groups, often in well-defined and hard to penetrate silos. Finding the right person at the right level in the right silo is always a challenge. It is virtually impossible for an outsider to navigate the corporate maze alone. Initially, it may seem appropriate to identify and reach out to whom you believe will be THE key decision maker. However, this may result in exactly the wrong outcome you were hoping for: a quick and decisive “no”. As discussed in the article, 5.030203, “Key Decision Makers Don’t”, the issue is that KDMs need to have consensus from a variety of individuals or departments who, in fact, will be required to implement and support their decision. Building consensus first is, therefore, mandatory.
As a worst-case scenario, approaching a KDM without first gaining support can result in others taking an active position against you! They may feel blindsided and fear looking bad to the KDM. As a defensive mechanism, they may quickly find fault with you and find an alternative. Once these negative stakes in the ground are made, it will be very difficult - if not impossible - to turn the tide in your favor.
Working with one and only one person in a large organization can be equally dangerous. That person, based on their own motives or point-of-view, may unintentionally lead you down the wrong path. It is important to form a relationship with an insider but follow the advice from The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese military strategist (circa 500 BC) and “hire local guides”. You need a person that can help you navigate the corporate waters in any Goliath organization. Follow their advice but be very cautious of any “local guide” that insists on being your only contact with the organization. Their intentions may be noble, but they may end up leading you astray. You must avoid any potential “no” decision which may be relayed to you as a “no-decision” or “not yet”. An effective method to help you work through the corporate maze with your contact is to ask them for an example of how another company similar to you was able to form a relationship. Try to determine who was involved, how did they become involved, and who were the KDMs. If your contact cannot or will not answer these questions, carefully consider an alternative approach. If not, your success in securing a relationship will be highly unlikely.
Always keep in mind that companies do not form relationships, people do, and “people” means more than one person.