15 Tips for Entrepreneurs to Land Their First Big Client

by / ⠀Finding Customers Startup Advice / April 20, 2012


Q. What do you wish you’d known before you pitched your first big client?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.

A. Find the Decision Maker

If you’re pitching a group of people, odds are one person has the ultimate say. Figure out who that person is so you know how to tailor your pitch.

Andy Drish, Referral Squirrel

A. Big Clients Move Slowly

kenthealyI approached my first big client with the mentality of a small business that moves quickly. So, embedded in my pitch was the assumption they would be inclined to act with urgency. I was very wrong. I realized my pitch did not emphasize time scarcity, so a decision on their end kept getting delayed. Now, I always give deadlines when working with (any) clients because stagnation will kill interest.

Kent Healy, The Uncommon Life

A. What Do They Want to Hear?

I wish I knew exactly what they wanted. This is why I like to start every meeting with questions and really listening to their problems and pain points. We can offer the client 400+ features, but it is more effective to just show them the few features that actually matter to them. Once the client understands we can solve their problem we don’t have to compete on price.

Rishi Shah, Flying Cart LLC

A. Enthusiasm Is Your Biggest Asset

Clients want to work with companies and people who are genuinely excited about the products and services that they create. Forget about nerves — if you have an offering that you’re truly excited to talk about, your excitement will rub off on the potential client as well. Don’t hold back.

Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

A. Focus on What You Can Do

If you’re pitching your first big client, you probably don’t have the background and portfolio to impress. Don’t stress it. At some point, everyone pitched their first big client, and everyone landed their first big client. Don’t focus on where you may be lacking; instead, focus on your key advantages and what you’ll do better than anyone else.

Matt Cheuvront, Proof Branding

A. Rejection Is Very Common

I’m a firm believer in the idea that things are better when expectations are in line with reality. In other words, if you are prepared for a situation, you are likely to feel better about it, regardless of the outcome. In the case of starting TalentEgg and pitching my first big client, I wish I knew that “no” was more common than “yes.”

Lauren Friese, TalentEgg Inc.

A. Ask for More

If you are working with clients that have major budgets, you need to ask them for a large enough account that will excite them. With my first pitch to a major client, I was scared of rejection and only asked for a small relationship which we could grow from that point. They declined the offer and I heard from back channels that the leadership thought that I was too “small time.”

Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

A. Get Personal

Its not what you know, its who you know. When you walk into a room of strangers, you need to make a personal connection to increase your success rate. Be well rounded and prepared to talk about travel, wine, sports teams, etc. Go for a drink or meal with them. Make a pitch after you’ve shown yourself to be more than just another person who wants to sell them something.

Andrew Bachman, Scambook.com

A. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

As a young entrepreneur, we always tend to shortchange ourselves. This leads to bad client relations as you think you are being underpaid for the work. The job is always going to be harder, take longer and be a bigger pain then you thought. So if that is going to be the case, get more money. Get paid what you are worth and what the job is worth.

Greg Rollett, The ProductPros

A. Just Be Yourself

natalie-macneilAs a young entrepreneur, I was intimidated to pitch big clients, and it didn’t help that my peers would say things like, “Oh, you should hold off” and “You should get more experience first.” I tried to act older and more experienced than I actually was, and that was a mistake. It turned out that for one of the biggest clients I landed, my age actually helped me land the contract.

Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

A. Work Starts Before the Meeting Begins

I wish I had known that your sources of credibility and preparedness — things set before the meeting begins — are perhaps more crucial than the meeting itself. Having the right introduction, sharing the right measures of success, sending materials in advance, and doing homework on both the person you’re meeting and the company they work for is invaluable.

Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring

A. Play Hard to Get

We want what we can’t have. This truism applies to clients too. Be confident and make it clear that you only work with those who are a good fit with your company. You don’t take on just any client. By using this approach, you’ll find clients pitching themselves to you, as they don’t want you to turn them down!

Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh, Inc.

A. Rid the Fear

Don’t be afraid. View the “pitch” as a simple conversation between you and your potential client. If you’re afraid and nervous, you’re going to appear afraid and nervous, and nobody wants to do business with afraid and nervous people.

Tim Jahn, Entrepreneurs Unpluggd

A. Tune into WII FM

First tune to everyone’s favorite radio station, WII FM — What’s In It For Me? Don’t start with how great what you’re doing is, but rather with what you’ll do for them, which is usually making them money.

Nicolas Gremion, Paradise Publishers

A. Don’t Forget Body Language

Everyone prepares for verbal and visual communication, but don’t forget about non-verbal communication. Can you imagine being inspired by someone slouching and looking at the floor? No way. Make the big client believe in you by using body language that indicates that you believe in yourself.

David Gardner, ColorJar

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.