De Asa Brown often reminds minority entrepreneurs of the old sports adage: Every time you’re up to bat you might not get a hit but you have to keep swinging. Brown, a 15-year diversity veteran and director of supplier diversity at Automatic Data Processing (ADP), one of the world’s largest business outsourcing solutions providers, believes all business starts with a conversation.
She wrote “Contacts That Lead To Contracts And Checks That Clear!”, a list of 10 tips to help entrepreneurs best position their companies to gain business from major corporations. (For more on ADP’s supplier diversity procurement efforts, go to www.adp.com/supplierdiversity.)
Brown offers a few select pointers that can develop into business-building opportunities:
1. Understand the company you are approaching.
2. Sell the value of your company to the appropriate audiences within the organization you are approaching. (Know that your pitch to procurement will be different from your pitch to the marketing department.)
“As an entrepreneur, you’re always selling your products and services through phone conversations, e-mails, networking, referrals, marketing materials, and Websites but it’s key to know your target audience. Entrepreneurs try to sell their whole company too quickly to the wrong audience. For example, if you’re talking to someone like me that’s in a procurement group, understand the key objective of any procurement group—to save the company money. Sell the value of how your company’s product and services can help save the company’s bottom line.”
3. Understand the organization’s “pain points” (or needs) so you can “ease or eliminate” their pain.
“No one likes pain. Entrepreneurs can find out a company’s pain points externally through researching via the Internet, news articles, trends within the industry, and government or industry mandates. Internally, you want to have multiple contacts inside the organization because if you’re connecting with someone in the IT department, for example, you may find out that a pain point is in technology—a need that you can provide as a service. Through your external and internal research there may be something of value that you can offer to that client through innovation or cost-saving mechanism. Make sure to include that information in your RFP (request for proposal) process.”
4. Know what is unique about your company’s product and service. Know your brand.
5. At the end of a meeting with an organization, ask for the business and ask for referrals.
6. Under promise and over deliver!
“Any business process should be consistent and repeatable. When you under promise and over deliver, that’s a very positive way of securing repeat business from a client. Let’s say you’ve agreed to produce 10 deliverables as a part of the contract; of course, the client wants those 10 deliverables but there is certainly nothing wrong with giving the client three more for a total of 13 so the client feels as though they are getting something they need but didn’t pay for.”
7. Cultivate relationships at various levels within an organization (from management to C-Suite).
“Networking is critical. Join professional associations or become a member of industry organizations. For example, if you’re looking to do business with ADP, you might want to join the Society for Human Resource Management because ADP is connected with this organization. Or you may want to go to events that ADP sponsors, giving you the opportunity to meet individuals within the organization to connect with. You need to know the decision makers in addition to the influencers that can help you land contracts.”
8. Be careful and always stay focused on the client you are doing business with at that point in time.
9. Stay current and up to date on business events and trends.
10. Reinvest in making your company better. Seek out external resources that can help develop the leadership in your company.