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How This Entrepreneur Secured a Global Deal with Microsoft

What used to take a team of people can now be done by one individual.

Microsoft's recent decision to motivate its value-added partners to sell third-party solutions has created several openings for small businesses to gain big revenue advantages.

One startup in the CRM space, Nimble, saw an opportunity with this dynamic and recently closed a global Microsoft contract. When I learned about Nimble's win, I wanted to learn how a small startup closed such a giant deal with a giant company. Since I have worked with Nimble's CEO Jon Ferrara, I decided to reach out to him directly to uncover how he did it.

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Here are some of the most insightful and actionable highlights from our interview (you can watch the entire video interview here):

What are the strategy and tactics to landing a big deal with a big company?

Ferrara used social media to build direct relationships with Microsoft's Office and Outlook product managers as well as its business team members who were making decisions on channel and distribution of third-party products.

The top performing tactic was to acquire a list of Twitter influencers who attended Microsoft's prior year's World Partner Conference (WPC). Ferrara then segmented the influencers into 200 key contacts for further follow-up. According to Ferrara, he used his own solution to automatically populate email addresses, social profiles and contact information which shaved days off of the typical research effort. From there, he segmented the list, wrote an email with authentic and relevant messaging inviting them to call or email him.

The results surprised him. The outreach emails generated a 50 percent open rate and 25 meetings.

Because of the interest generated across multiple Microsoft departments, Ferrara was able to negotiate a global deal to resell Nimble directly and through its partner channel as the de facto sales and marketing add-on for Office 365, Outlook and Outlook Mobile. Additionally, Microsoft agreed to make Nimble its teacher of social sales and marketing for its partner channel.

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How did you convince Microsoft to deal on such a grand scale?

For Microsoft resellers to be successful, they need to start selling front and back office solutions on top of the "plumbing" that they're selling.

"This is precisely what we positioned Nimble to be," Ferrara told me. "We explained that Nimble is the first thing that brands will need after adopting Office 365. Because our simple social sales and marketing system is what enables Office to become increasingly 'sticky' and drive adoption of its Azure cloud services."

What advice would you give to small organizations about creating the trust that would allow them to land their own massive deal?

"The single biggest way for a brand to earn the type of intimacy and trust that enables them to score such a major contract is to go into every meeting extremely prepared, Ferrara told me. "It is vital to understand who you are speaking with and what their business is all about. Additionally, keep your questions simple and then shut up, listen and learn."

Ferrara explained that when you do this, that individual is going to share everything you need to know and everything you need to do to earn his or her trust so that an intimate partnership can be formed.

Ferrara continues, "If you sit there and simply propose ways that you can help them solve their issues, it's not going to go in your favor because that's what every salesman off the street is going to try and do."

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Ferrara positioned his company as the primary thought leader in the field. He used his own solution to network at scale, showing Microsoft exactly what the platform can do first hand. Then after securing the meetings and phone calls with Microsoft executives, he came prepared to learn about what the company needed.

What used to take a team of people can now be done by one individual.

Related: One of Facebook's First Employees Explains Why Email Marketing Is Better Than Social Media Marketing

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