How does a small company make a big company successful?

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Every single day I have multiple conversations and emails from CEOs and people at companies I work with about how to work with Big Tech Companies. You know — , , Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, SAP, LinkedIn, Cisco, Yahoo, HP, AT&T, Verizon, I could keep going for a long time.

But this conversation is not limited to just the gigantic tech companies. They include all the up and comers (and a bunch more you probably don’t think are that big but are), including a long list of newly public companies or still private but mega-funded companies.

This conversation comes from two different directions.

- BigCo reaches out to LittleCo and has a classic “happy ears meeting” where BigCo talks a great game about all the great things the two companies can do together and how it’s going to be awesome, and LittleCo hears what they want to hear, not what has been actually said. And then the giant black time-suck hole of the “let’s work together dance” begins. In the typical case, this goes one for months and months without any resolution or action. Eventually everyone gets tired of each other.

- LittleCo reaches out to me and says “Hey, I really think we could be strategic to BigCo. Can you make an introduction.”

My response to each of these is NO NO NO NO NO NO. After I say NO a few more times, I state “You are thinking about it wrong.”

Instead of expecting BigCo to react to you in any way, start from the perspective that if you want a relationship with BigCo, your only goal in life should be to help BigCo be successful.

Start by coming up with a hypothesis about what you are going to do to help BigCo be successful. Then, test this hypothesis.

The Lean Startup approach is super helpful here. Test, ship, iterate — just keep trying and keep learning. Use what you are creating to get the attention of BigCo.

Don’t spend six months developing a business development relationship. Don’t spend months trying to get the decision maker on the phone before you’ve done anything. Don’t wine and dine endlessly the people you know or get connected to. And never, ever go single-threaded with one person at BigCo, or one BigCo, hoping something good will happen.

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