It’s relatively easy not to win corporate business.
Just try a few of these tactics: Call a buyer and say right off the bat, “I’m a minority-owned firm, got any work for me?” Attempt to sell your special rug shampooing formula to a company with cement floors. Call the buyer once a week and remind him that you’re still here and looking for business. Or try dropping a few names, as in, “I just had lunch with your chairman’s wife and she told me to call you.”
Don’t laugh. People looking to land corporate contracts actually do these things, according to Richard Stouffer, director of “minority/women business development at Texas Instruments in Dallas. But perhaps the biggest mistake small business owners make is to say,” my product is better than theirs” or “we can save you money.” “That’s what everybody says,”says Stouffer. “What I want to know is what do you offer that will bring maximum value to my company?”
Most U.S. companies judge all prospective suppliers on their competitive performance in seven basic categories: quality, cost, cycle time, delivery, health, safety and environment, technology and service. To help suppliers (also called vendors) upgrade or refresh their capabilities for quality improvement in these categories, Texas Instruments, Xerox, Motorola, Bayer, Kodak, Texaco and Chrysler formed the Consortium for Supplier Training (CST) in 1993. Originally started for their own suppliers, CST workshops are available today to any company looking to boost performance, particularly small, midsized and minority-owned suppliers, and are conducted in Supplier Training Centers (STC), located in local colleges and universities around the country. “STC does a needs analysis for your company upon request to help determine your strengths or weaknesses, then customizes a program for you,” explains Brenda Hendrieth, site sponsor of Chrysler’s STC center at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The average cost per person for one day of training ranges from $75 to $175. For more information about the workshops, call Patti Glenn at 800-882- 6638.
Once you’ve achieved a state of competitive readiness, the next step is getting your message to the right person. Which brings us to axiom No. 1: Corporate America is not going to beat a path to your door, no matter how good you are. You’ve got to go to the mountain. What you do when you get there will determine how quickly you hit the mother lode.
1. STRATEGIZE YOUR WAY INSIDE.
“Frankly, the best way to get inside is to know somebody,” says Fred Rasheed, president of Rasheed Associates, a marketing, management and diversity consulting firm in East Orange, New Jersey. His firm has more than 10 corporate clients, including Hardee’s, Food Lion Inc., Quaker Oats and Pepsi-Cola. In addition, Rasheed coaches black business owners who come to him for help getting into corporate doors.
As the former director of the NAACP’s Economic Development Program, Rasheed has helped to pair up more than 50 black-owned businesses with multinational corporations, including UniWorld and Coors Brewing Co. and Don Coleman Advertising and Chrysler. In each case, the