Who’s on your small business customer prospect list? As a small business owner, don’t think that it’s only other small businesses or members of your local community that you should target. Each year large U.S. corporations spend more than $2 trillion buying services and products from other companies. With such a huge opportunity, there’s no reason why you can’t tap into large corporate buyers; and there’s plenty to be gained if you do.
According to a 2010 study of nearly 200 small U.S. businesses in New York and 14 other states conducted by The Center for an Urban Future, 70 percent of the businesses that responded to the survey indicated noteworthy increases in revenue and jobs between the year before and two years after becoming a corporate supplier.
So just how does your small business go after large corporate buyers? Start by tapping into all your contacts within a company you’d like to pursue, including associates you’ve built through social networking, most notably LinkedIn. Even if your contacts aren’t in a position to use your products or services at the time or recommend someone else within the company; they can provide useful information to help you build a case for your small business offerings down the road. Contacts are not enough, however; you’ll also need to:
Do your homework: That applies to any business you pursue regardless of size, but it’s a lot more important when you are going after large corporations. Get to know the industry and the company’s current challenges and opportunities. Also watch for events that might make it an opportune time to knock on the door with your offerings, such as the acquisition of another business, new management, a new marketing opportunity or change in direction.
Start with one group: It’s often best to go after one department or group at a time, unless you have an enterprise-wide solution. Even if your product or solution has fairly broad applicability, once you get your foot in the door with one department and you are successful; you have a stronger case to approach others.
Dig deep: When you have a prospect on the phone or in a face-to-face meeting, aim to build a relationship from the start. The conversations should not be about what you have to offer; it should be about what the prospect needs and why. Once you know that, you are in a much better position to discuss the value your small business brings to the table.
Find a void and fill it: It most likely will be difficult to dislodge a current supplier or vendor but you may have a service or product that complements what a corporate buyer is already using or fills a void.
Understand the process: In larger companies, there are often several layers of sign off, particularly if a contract or sale is over a certain dollar amount. If you know this, you may want to adjust your pricing to fall in line with what one department head or group manager can approve. Still don’t undervalue your worth. You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t have quality offerings and satisfied customers. When it comes to how much to charge, your position should always be that your company adds value.
In addition to these tips, also consider registering your company on Supplier Connection. It’s a free Web-based portal formed by a consortium of large companies designed to make it easier for small businesses to become recognized by them and for these large companies to find small businesses with whom to do business. Find out if your company is eligible and sign up.