Strategic Partnerships: Three Steps to Your First Meeting with a Big Fish

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons

You’ve reached out to a big player in your market space – one with distribution clout and an A-list customer base. They’ve agreed to meet with you. What are your next steps?

All too often, entrepreneurs leave these first meetings in the hands of the big fish – and lose the opportunity. Here are three steps to setting the tone for your first meeting.

Contribute to the Agenda:  Entrepreneurs sometimes think that landing the meeting is an expression of genuine interest, and let their potential partner drive the agenda and meeting.  Don’t be lulled into complacency. Your opportunity starts with helping to set the meeting agenda, which determines the attendees.

In advance of the meeting, provide your potential partner with an executive-appropriate, concise overview of your offerings so that you can spend more time exploring mutual opportunities and less time explaining. 

Diplomatically suggest agenda items that focus on mutual benefit, and that may broaden participation across functional business units. For example, if your contact for the meeting is in sourcing or procurement, suggest a co-marketing opportunity for one or two of the company’s offerings as an agenda item. This can be a catalyst for your contact to include a marketing, sales or product management executive in the meeting.

Know the names, titles and functional areas of everyone attending the meeting.  Then do your homework on each of the attendees’ career history, specialist knowledge and professional activity.

Understand Priorities from the Big Fish Point of View: Supplement what you’ve learned in your interactions with secondary research on the company. What are their market priorities? Are they launching new offerings, or repositioning current offerings? Are they targeting a niche or market segment?  Think beyond the big player’s best-selling or high visibility offerings. Large players are often looking for ways to reposition underperforming offerings to generate more revenue.  Think about how your company can complement these types of offerings

Quantify Your Capabilities:  Large players may listen politely to a good idea. They will only begin to explore possibilities for a partnership when they’re presented with evidence of a market opportunity. Can your company deliver on the offering, service and support?

Don’t play it by ear or you will overpromise. Be prepared to describe your production or deployment capacity in measurable terms that demonstrate the upside and manage the risks. For example, you can encourage a dialogue on technical product support or service level agreements to identify terms that that are achievable for your company and acceptable to your partner. 

Run the numbers with your team in advance of your meeting so that you don’t overcommit, and can document your production or deployment capabilities when you are asked – and if your partnership moves forward, you will be asked.

Partnering with a large player has many advantages, including investor credibility, market visibility and revenue growth.  Make the most of your first meeting, and you’ll ensure that there are next steps to a partnership.

Elizabeth Usovicz is General Manager of Transaction Commons, a professional-grade service for reviewing deal documents and for negotiating and controlling versions of deal agreements. She specializes in deal process streamlining, top-line revenue and business strategies for high-growth companies, new ventures and business units within established companies. 

She can be reached at