smaller company was ready to do business at the corporate level and simply needed a contact to get inside. Rasheed’s reputation, affiliation and endorsement helped to open doors, but “once they got in, they were on their own,” he says.
If you don’t have friends in the right places, call the company and ask for the person in charge of minority supplier development programs, often located in the company’s purchasing department, suggests Donna Long, director of development for the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc., based in New York. “This person can direct you to the right buyers in the company and walk you through the process,” she says. Be sure you make a good impression, because this is often where a supplier gets buried in the “not-good-enough-to- recommend” file.
“You should find where the point of decision is and go straight there,” adds Texas Instruments’ Stouffer. “Look for the person who can say yes.” Texas Instruments, the nation’s largest supplier of digital signal processors, said yes to minority suppliers, not including women, to the tune of $189 million last year.
Don’t expect much from cold calls to a company or say that you’ll be dropping by at a specific time. Your approach should be customized, focused and well researched, designed specifically for that particular company. It’s best to concentrate your efforts on a few companies instead of casting a blind net out for hundreds at a time.
2. PERSIST IN YOUR PURSUIT.
Do more than just send a letter and a brochure about your company to the purchasing department. The most common response is a polite form letter accompanied by a minority supplier form which the buyer will promise to “keep on file” after you fill it out and send it back. Do return the form, but understand that this is just the beginning of your attempt to get In. A friendly check-in call every few months may yield results, especially if your call comes just when the buyer is ready to buy and doesn’t feel like combing through the files for prospects. If you spoke to someone by phone, attach a note to your follow-up package that will remind the person of your conversation.
Send update letters now and then, announcing expanded services, awards, new executives, clients, rate changes or special discount offers. Some firms, such as Rasheed’s, publish their own newsletter as an informative way to keep their name in front of clients and prospects. Promotional items might also grab a buyer’s attention, but it’s highly likely that your pens, keychains and calendars will end up in the trash, warns Stouffer.
3. SELL SOLUTIONS.
The best way to get attention is to show how well you understand the company and its needs, then offer viable solutions to help meet them. “We have five rules of thumb when doing business with corporations,” says Jim Liautaud, chairman and owner of Capsonic Group Inc. and Capsonic Automotive in Elgin. Illinois. “One is, look at problems as big opportunities to prove your ability to help solve them,” he