How to pitch for big clients as a small business

It may be daunting to go toe to toe with a behemoth, but play to your strengths, says Wavemaker's Alastair Aird.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 22 Feb 2019

One of the great challenges of growing a business is to establish credibility. This is particularly true of B2B firms, whose long-term success so often hinges on winning a contract to supply a major corporation.

Once you have one towering multinational on your books, it become far easier, theoretically, to get the others’ attention. Getting that first big client, however, can all too often appear to be a Catch-22. Why would they pay you for goods or services, when there are larger, more established rivals with a foot firmly through the door?

On the surface, you might not expect Alastair Aird to have much sympathy for this position. He’s global chairman of Wavemaker, a media agency with 8,500 employees, part of WPP – not exactly a corporate minnow. But he also sits as a non-exec on the board of a couple of SMEs, and has done since their founding.  His advice to them, perhaps surprisingly, is not to copy the big guys.


"Clients by nature tend to look for reasons why they shouldn’t appoint you as a supplier. You may not have a client as big as them at the moment, but turn that to your advantage: because they’ll be your biggest client, they’ll also be your most important client. They’ll get more attention.

"Work on a specific project for them, and prove you can do it better because you’re faster, more agile and more focused on them. Do that one thing brilliantly, and then you can expand the relationship and go for the whole pie.

"Remember that when you’re pitching for new business, that people buy people. It doesn’t matter if you have 8,500 people behind you when you’re out for pitches, it’s the six of you in the room that count.

"If you’re pitching against a big corporate multinational, they’ll send their most polished sales people, but you can use that to your advantage. I often hear clients say to me that they don’t want to see salespeople, they want to see the people they’ll actually be working with. In a small business ,what you see is what you get."

Further reading

Image credit: WelshPixie/Pixabay

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