I have the pleasure of meeting the next generation of ideas and people every day. Some of the most incredible tech crosses my path but over the years I have come to realise that a successful tech/corporate partnership all boils down to people and relationships. No matter how good your product is, if you’re unable to build rapport with your customers, you’re not going to make a penny.
Early on in my career I met a company (and many more have followed) whose tech sounded interesting and viable, but whose founder was rude, arrogant and instantly rubbed me up the wrong way. Despite this, colleagues around me seemed interested in the proposition and despite my hesitation, we arranged to work more formally with the company.
Lo and behold, the partnership never took off. Why? Because the founder was unable to forge any kind of relationship with the companeis she was trying to sell into. An ‘I’ve got so much on’ and ‘I can’t believe you’ve asked me to pitch so last minute’ attitude achieved nothing except one closed door after another. What’s more, word spreads quickly and news soon arrives to key decision makes that this person is a pain to deal with!
In comparison, I’ve worked with some founders whose passion and enthusiasm descends on customers like a ray of sunshine. I can actually see faces light up and the most hardened of ‘no’ bosses soon warm to a startup’s proposition (much to their surprise). Of course, the tech has to be solid, but stellar communication and genuine rapport will ultimately help to seal the deal.
Startups often ask me whether they should hire a rockstar sales guy to charm the pants off every client and get the cash register ringing? Sounds tempting but my usual answer is no. In the early stage it can only be the founders who feel the passion and determination to see their company succeed. They are the ones that truly believe in the product they have created and no one else could sell it in as effectively or as convincingly as they.
While, not everyone can have the stage presence of a Mick Jagger or the charm of a Hugh Grant, enthusiasm, positivity and a beaming smile can go along way. As our lives become ever more digital and technology is interwoven into the daily fabric of our lives it is sometimes easy to forget about people. But I can’t think of a single innovation that wasn’t designed with a person in mind. These changes were driven by people, for people and future success will naturally be determined by the relationships formed between people.