When you own a small business, you have to take advantage of every opportunity possible. If you are a minority or woman owned business, you often have unique opportunities available to you. Even if your business meets a potential client’s criteria for supplier diversity, you still need to seal the deal.
Here are a few things that larger companies look for when selecting suppliers.
Know your customer.
When pitching a larger company for its business, do your research before you walk into the room. Find out everything you can about the industry, the company’s markets and the unique challenges it might be facing. Be prepared to share how your company’s capabilities may meet these challenges. It’s always good to have a few examples of how you have done so for other clients. The more you research the potential client, the more likely it is you’ll find a way to differentiate your company from the other contenders. If you can demonstrate how you can help them meet a particular challenge, you can increase your chances of winning a contract.
Be at the top of your game.
A sales pitch is just a lot of empty promises if you don’t have the ability to deliver. Before you go in to a potential client, make sure you can do what you say you can do. Falling short of your client’s expectations can cause irreparable damage to your company’s reputation.
Be a professional.
A great deal of new business opportunities are generated through networking. Building relationships and being active in professional and trade organizations can provide you access to potential clients and help get your foot in the door when companies issue Requests for Proposals (RFP). Exposure via networking is vital to getting your company recognized and is a big source of supplier leads for procurement executives.
Even if you have an existing relationship with a potential client, it’s critically important to be professional when you’re ready to deliver a presentation or submit a response to an RFP. Dress appropriately, make sure your presentation materials are polished and correct, and don’t be too familiar or casual when talking business.
Communication is key.
Customers really want a partnership between their companies and their suppliers. Every interaction with a potential client is not just an opening to deliver your elevator speech. Take those opportunities to ask questions and really listen to the answers. When you have a true conversation with potential clients, you can learn about that company’s culture and needs, which can help you tailor your pitch or RFP response and demonstrate that your company can provide what their company really needs.
Culture is important.
Most companies look to hire employees who fit well with the established culture. In the same way, when suppliers are a good fit for the company culture, both sides can achieve a true partnership. Organizations work together best when their goals are aligned. Before and after you win the business, it’s important to respect the client’s culture.
Culture works both ways, though. Sometimes, a client isn’t a good fit for your company. It’s important to research and understand the client’s culture and needs. If the customer is going to require too many of your resources or too much of your company’s time, the relationship may not be the best fit for the business. It’s important to weigh all of these factors when pursuing a contract.
Be prepared to negotiate.
When you demonstrate your willingness to listen and understand your clients, and when your services are a good match for their needs, companies often are willing to work with you on aspects that might not be a perfect fit. This is where transparency, communication and listening can pay off. When you build a strong relationship with a company, you may find that customer is willing to work with you in ways you never imagined. For instance, at AmeriHealth Caritas, we have a mentor program to help our smaller and diverse suppliers develop the management expertise they need to grow. This approach supports our mission of building healthy communities, because when small businesses grow, they produce new jobs and other economic benefits for the communities they serve.
Go into the negotiations with a realistic idea of what services you can provide, and be prepared to negotiate on areas where your company may not be as strong. If you can offer a solid proposal on how you can build up those areas, the potential client may be willing to work with you.
Focus on the client’s needs.
Behind all of these is a basic focus on the customer. By listening and researching, you can find ways to help potential clients address their needs while differentiating your company from its competitors. Being professional, transparent and client-focused truly can help you make the most of the opportunities available to your company.
Written by Grace Falkowski, Director, Corporate Sourcing, at the AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies