Even though the economy seems to be improving, one thing remains clear: people and businesses are still keeping a close eye on the wallet, and the bottom line. What that means for the small business owner is that our regular customers still may not be enough to keep the ship sailing properly.
That’s why it is always a smart move, but especially in an economy like this, to branch out and look to attract bigger corporate clients. Now, of course large corporations have their budgetary constraints as well, but it is also true that their budgetary constraints are quite different than our budgetary constraints.
So how do you attract and land more corporate clients? Here’s how:
1. Do your homework: Consider what it is you sell and then look locally for companies that would likely have a need for that product or service. Make a list of five or 10 that you think would be likely candidates. Read up on them, do your Google research.
2. Identify the right people: This can be the challenging part as their will be a labyrinth of options with larger corporations. But again, this is where the Internet makes life much easier. Search for terms like “purchasing agent”, “procurement” and “RFP” (Requests for Proposal).
Social media can also be a very valuable tool in this regard. LinkedIn can help you find the right people and get introductions to them. Similarly, use hashtags (#) with Twitter to locate relevant discussions.
3. Line up your ducks: If you can be certified as a minority business for instance (see below) that can help, so get started – it may take a bit to get that certification in order. Update your business plan. Have some new brochures made. Get ready to impress.
Also, be sure you will be able to handle the extra business if you are fortunate enough to get it. You will be need to be able to show the corporation that you will be able to fulfill any contract, so think about this ahead of time.
4. Know thy buyer: Corporate managers are busy, and must be able to justify the decisions they make. So, whether you respond to an RFP or cold call and pitch a manager, you will still need a dynamic presentation. A great business proposal will explain, simply and logically, what the proposition is and how it will work. Show why you are a great choice. Your track record helps. So do testimonials. Consider suggesting that you would even be willing to do some work for free, as a loss leader to prove your worth.
5. Communicate: Once you have identified the person who is either the right person, or can lead you to the right person, send them a short email, or call, or even better, meet them in person. Introduce yourself and your business, find out about their needs, and the RFP process, and learn about what other requirements are needed to do business with them.
You have made business pitches before and this is just an extension of that. Remember, you have to both make a great impression, and be able to show them that you will be able to solve a need they have. Explain how the company generally, and the manager specifically, will benefit from the product or service you offer.
6. Appreciate budgets: Every department and every manager has a budget. When they buy from you it means they will not be spending their money elsewhere, so again, whether you are responding to an RFP or just pitching a manager on a new idea, you really need to be able to show them that this expenditure is the best use of their limited budgetary dollars.
7. Check out their supplier diversity programs: Most large companies have supplier diversity programs designed to increase their work with small businesses. They may have legal requirements to do business with women-owned businesses, or veteran-owned business for instance. This can be your ticket in.
8. Check out Business Matchmaking: Our friends here at American Express OPEN are sponsors of one of my favorite programs ever – Business Matchmaking. Business Matchmaking links corporate and government buyers – buyers who have contracts – with small business sellers. It has resulted in billions of dollars of contracts going to small business. You would be wise to check it out.
Follow me on Twitter @SteveStrauss.