Present Your Business With Professionalism to Build Corporate Contacts

Libby Saylor Wright, MicrosoftLanding a large client is an important growth step for many start-ups and can provide a satisfying sense (financially and psychologically) that both you and your business have “arrived.” Small companies that supply large corporations tend to experience significant revenue and job growth.

In their survey of 200 small businesses, the Center for an Urban Future found that small suppliers reported revenue growth of more than 250 percent, on average, one to two years after landing their first sale to a large company. Results like those are hard to ignore, but the survey also showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents had not yet had the opportunity to supply a large company. The challenge, of course, is how to get in front of corporate America and win its business.

You can learn how to tap into this growing opportunity by attending the Global Supplier Diversity Conference (GSDC) September 23, 2021 streaming live to your location. The full-day program is offered with complimentary registration for women and underrepresented founders and will provide critical information from amazing speakers such as senior executives from Microsoft, GSK Consumer Healthcare, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Atlanta Hawks, successful entrepreneurs and many others.

Understand the environment

Although much of corporate America today embraces more casual dress, matrix org charts and even remote work, these organizations are still huge, complex, often multinational, and typically difficult to navigate.

Where a business relationship between two mom-and-pop shops might develop on a more casual basis, it’s best to approach corporate contacts with more formality, along with an understanding that the pace of the workday may be more hectic, your contacts may manage a broad portfolio and have limited availability to interact, and the approval process could be lengthy. Consider these ideas to prep yourself and your team to interact effectively with corporate America as a small business owner.

“As an entrepreneur, in many ways you are your business,” explains Operations Leader/Chief of Staff for the US Retail & Consumer Goods Operating Unit at Microsoft, Libby Saylor Wright. “When a decision maker in a large organization reaches out to you, they may make numerous assumptions about your product or service based on your level of professionalism. That puts a lot of power in your hands to help your company stand out by cultivating in yourself and your associates the trademark behaviors associated with professional demeanor,” she adds.

That absolutely requires first attending to the basics. Being on time for calls and meetings means being ten minutes early so the client is never left waiting for you. Your size should also enable you to provide a high level of personal service and responsiveness. Provide answers when you say you will and share updates even if sometimes that is simply to say you don’t have final data yet.  Also, you can show respect for your potential client by dressing the part of a consummate professional, aiming just slightly more formally than those you are interacting with at the company.

Be willing to start small  

The Urban Future study found an especially successful strategy for small suppliers was to bid on smaller contracts than they might prefer as a way to break into the corporate supply chain. Not only did this often lead to more business with that organization, but nearly 40 percent of respondents said gaining referrals from a large corporation was key to landing other large clients.

Starting with a smaller deliverable can also reduce pressure as you navigate corporate expectations and systems for the first time, and will help ensure that you provide your best possible product on time and as promised.

Be candid about capabilities

“Large organizations want to work with diverse and smaller suppliers, but they need to have a very clear understanding of your capabilities and know they can count on you even if unforeseen circumstances arise,” Saylor Wright explains. “During the bidding process, be clear about what you can and cannot do, provide realistic deadlines you know you can meet and probe the companies you work with to clarify expectations. If a corporate leader is primarily experienced in interacting only with other large organizations, it can be particularly helpful for you to highlight the many plusses you offer as a smaller, more agile provider, as well as to set realistic expectations regarding your range of resources and delivery capabilities,” she adds.

Think about cash flow

Finally, make sure your pricing reflects the full scope of the project you agree to take on and any particularly stringent parameters you may need additional resources to meet. In addition, be clear about payment terms and consider requesting partial payment up front. Large organizations often have slower and more cumbersome payment processes, but may be willing to negotiate more helpful terms that reflect the realities of resource constraints faced by many small businesses.

Learn more about how to foster business connections with large corporations from Microsoft’s Libby Saylor Wright and other outstanding speakers when you REGISTER for  the Global Supplier Diversity Conference (GSDC) streaming live September 23, 2021.