One of the biggest challenges that corporate procurement and supplier diversity professionals report in working with small business owners is that they pitch them a product or service that they don’t need or want. It is critical to properly match the unique product or service your business provides with the specific needs of your potential corporate client AND fully understand what your clients WANT, not simply what you think they NEED!
So why is this important? First, the corporate marketplace is saturated with suppliers that are going after the same business. More importantly, many corporations already have a roust supply chain in place who you may be trying to replace.
In my opinion, the reason why many business owners have difficulty properly aligning their product or service with the right target corporate cleints is for many reasons–we have a strong believe in our offerings and value, there are tons of opportunities out there and we want a piece of all of it, we’re not properly niched, we’re not targeting the right corporations to do business with, and we fall into the “anyone” and “anything” trap.
Here are 6 strategies to help you ensure that you are not wasting your time going after the wrong corporate clients and that you truly impress the ones that you do approach:
1. Be properly niched. If you offer a product or service that is broad or general in nature, you should consider narrowing your niche to a specific end user or industry. For example, if you are an executive coach, consider working with a specific group of employees or specializing in a specific industry. This makes you an expert in your field and allows you to stand out from other general executive coaches.
2. Develop a target list. You increase your chances of landing corporate clients (and save your sanity) if you only approach the ones that are right for your product or service. You should target companies where you already have a relationship with someone on the inside or companies that have a natural affinity for what your provide. You can identify if you and your target corporation share an affinity in many ways:
- You can look for companies that are named on a particular list. For example, Fortune Magazine and Working Mother Magazine produces a “Best Places to Work” list which contains good companies to target if you offer a service or expertise to a company that’s for the benefit of their employees. It stands to reason that companies that already have shown a natural affinity for being interested in supporting their employees would be more open to the types of services that you provide.
- You can also turn to BizJournals.com and search their Book Of Lists. It’s going to show you the top 25 largest companies in your area by revenue and number of employees. It is also going to include lists like the top 25 fastest growing companies, and if you offer a service that has to do with marketing, sales, or something related to growth, that’s an excellent list to focus on.
- Another way to find corporations that share an affinity are focusing on all the companies who sent somebody from their company to attend an event. By the very nature of being at a conference, expo, or seminar on a particular topic, it shows that at least to some degree the people who are at the event have at least some interest in that topic area.
3. Distinguish yourself from your competitors. I highly encourage you to take some time to fill in the blank to “We are the only ones who _____.” The anwer to the blank could be that you are the only expert of your type who focuses on that particular industry, it could also be that your company is the only one that delivers it in a particular way. Remember, the market is saturated and multiple businesses are typically competing for the same contract, so find ways to stand out amongst the noise.
4. Do your homework. If you follow none of the other 5 strategies here, DO NOT overlook this one. It is so imperative that you take the time to find out what is going on within a corporation before you reach out to them. This is how you can hit a home run with what you offer because you will know for sure that you are offering a solution to a need they have NOW. There are many places you can look to find out what companies care about,and what they are in need of at the current moment. Consider these avenues:
- Corporate social responsibility report
- Annual report or financial report
- Local news coverage and press releases
- Business data websites like hoovers.com and corporateinformation.com
5. Have a targeted pitch. Once you have done your homework, this will be a breeze. Before you contact a decision maker take the time to target your pitch based on what you discovered during your research. This will get the attention of the decision maker more effectively. It is much better to say, “I saw on your website that you recently were acquired by ABC Corp and I have helped companies in the same situation to ……” vs. making a blanket statement about who you are and what you do.
6. Know when to pitch. This is golden because in my experience, corporations cut checks for matters that are urgent a lot easier than they do for matters that are important. There are 2 key ways to identify how to be in the right place at the right time:
- Look for trigger events. Trigger events are changes, decisions and activities within an organization, or in the market in general that can create an immediate need for your product or service. They include things like, mergers and acquisitions, hiring or firing of a top executive, lawsuits, poor financial results, launch of a new product or service, relocating, etc.
- Set up Google Alerts. This is a great way to stay on top of what’s going on inside of the companies that are on your target list.
Bridging the gap between what you offer and what your target client needs is the foundation for being successful in the corporate marketplace. Spend some time getting this right–you’ll be glad you did!