How to become a supplier to a large company.
As a small business owner, you are always looking for ways to differentiate your business and your product
or service from the competition.
One of the best ways of doing that is by working with a larger company. It lends credibility because it says you can work with an industry giant, and if you can work with them, you can work with anyone. That’s a claim not every small business owner can make.
Being selected to be a company’s supplier ultimately requires that you demonstrate your ability to provide value—but first you have to get that company’s attention. You do that by going to its website, registering with its vendor system (i.e. creating your account) and entering your information. Registering gets you in its system and adds you to its list of vendors.
Face-to-face contact is always good, so if you meet company representatives at a procurement fair or conference, for example, it allows them to put a face with your name. But if you are not in their system when they are searching for a supplier for their next job, you will not be considered.
Enhance Your Online Presence
When company representatives have evaluated your information but want to know more about your business or your product or service, where will they look for answers? On your website. Your website, which can be visited day or night, is your most valuable marketing tool, so make sure it is well-designed and well-written and conveys the right image.
Your website explains your business and your product or service, but an outstanding website does more. Here are two simple ways to enhance your site.
First, in addition to listing the features of your product or service, your website should explain the benefits those features provide. While company representatives want to know what features your product has or what innovative process you use to provide your service, what they really want to know is, how does your product or service help them compete in their market?
Second, your website should state your unique selling proposition, which is what makes your business and your product or service different from the competition. Do not assume everyone knows your product received the highest grade in the industry or that customers say you provide the fastest service in the industry—they probably do not. So tell them!
Make ‘Em Happy
Here is the secret to making the representative of a corporate giant happy: Do the same things you do to make the small business owner happy. Both want a high-quality product or service, ease of doing business, great communication, creative ideas, quick response time and friendly, helpful customer service. The only difference is scale. The company is larger—perhaps much larger—so you have to be able to provide large amounts of what they need.
Another way to make company representatives happy is understanding how they do business. Most small business owners are consumed with their business, their product or service and their industry. So they give little or no thought to their customers’ needs.
However, by understanding their businesses and their challenges, and by proposing ways to overcome them, you will be seen as a problem-solver who has done his or her homework and who is committed to helping them solve their problems—instead of as someone who merely wants their business.
The best sales approach is not touting the wonders of your product or service: It is knowing and supplying what your customer needs. I was a beverage supplier in Atlanta for six years and had a customer who always ran low on orange juice. I supplied their soft drinks, but whenever I offered to supply their orange juice, too, they said they had a supplier.
One day I noticed they had no orange juice on their shelves. I knew it was one of their best-selling beverages, so I reminded them I sold orange juice. They assured me their supplier would restock their order in a few days, but I insisted they needed orange juice today, and added that I have cases of it on my truck. When their orange juice deliveryman arrived a few days later, they informed him they had a new supplier. I never lost their account.
Having a company select your business as its supplier requires patience, so use that time wisely. To increase your chances of being selected, research the company, identify its challenges, understand its goals and let your contacts there know how you can help.
Being a vendor to a larger company will make your prestige skyrocket. Most companies are reluctant to contract with small businesses because they are not sure if they can fulfill their large-scale requirements, but if you have worked with one company, other companies (and businesses) will assume you are qualified and capable of working with theirs, too.