Do you want to shorten the time it takes to land a corporate contract? Of course you do. With shorter time spent to land contracts, you will have an opportunity to pursue multiple business avenues. In order to make this happen, you must concentrate on your initial pitch – probably the most crucial part of the process. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you get it right. If you are going to be a Blueprint Pro and we are going to get you to those six, seven, eight & nine-figure contracts, then you absolutely must nail the initial approach.
When I was a buyer, the thing that stood out in potential suppliers’ initial pitches was that most of them were not ready. If you’re not ready, it’s going to take an eternity to get a contract. Sure, you can get lucky. You can happen to be in the right place at the right time on the right day and get a shot, and you may be one of those rare individuals that, really and truly, all you need is that shot. Somehow everything falls into place and you do a fantastic job. This does happen, but it’s rare. It’s the exception, not the rule. And because this is rare, companies getting opportunities who aren’t ready have left a negative impression of small business readiness in the corporate world.
As a buyer, I would listen to the pitches of potential suppliers and try to figure out when would be the appropriate time to engage with them. The first meeting I might decide that this person is not ready yet, but I’m going to maintain a relationship. If I happened to see them out at another event, I would remember that, in our first interaction, the person had seemed to be fumbling over what it was they did, and was not precise about what it was they were going to offer…or what value it delivered to my supply chain.
I had one person come up to me and give me five different business cards. The implication being “I can do this. I can do this. I have this company that does this”. I was so confused. I didn’t know what to use him for at the moment. If you give me five different business cards, I’m not sure that you are good at any one of your businesses. My initial reaction in these instances is to not consider that person as someone with whom I want to do business. Because of these encounters, I started putting together a diagram in my mind - a timeline about how long it took before I was confident that a person was ready.
I think the fastest that I may have ever contracted with a supplier was a couple of weeks. It was a company that made microcomputers. When I met them, they seemed like they had their act together. I looked at their brochure; and I had heard good things about them from someone else. One of my coworkers needed a computer, so out of the blue, I sent that company a purchase order for a PC. Sure enough, it came in as advertised and as expected. I got the appropriate confirmations; the transaction went off without a hitch; the product was delivered on time; and there was sufficient follow-up to see that I, the buyer, was satisfied. And most importantly (this one’s always overlooked) – the invoice complied with our invoicing requirements.
I share that with you to say that it is possible to land a corporate contract that is a small one, and if you perform exemplarily, it can lead to a substantial amount of business. That company went on to do millions and millions of dollars with us.
There were other times when I gave new suppliers a chance, however, and they were complete and utter disasters. I surmised that I needed to get better at picking and choosing companies, so I started developing a criteria of what it took for me to get comfortable that somebody was worth taking a risk on. In the absence of that, it could take years before I gave companies a shot again, especially if it was a really large contract – say six, seven or eight figures – and we had to put together a cross-functional team consisting of - for example - somebody from operations, maintenance, accounting HR, finance, safety, etc. If it is a team-based decision, the decision process can easily go anywhere from 6 to 18 months. Depending on the complexity and what it takes to get buy-in, and the amount of change the organization has to go through, it can take 18 months just to work through the requirements. Then the final decision isn’t made until possibly 24 to 36 months.
Let’s look at Amazon’s recent decision to relocate their headquarters. Although it isn’t a purchase, it follows a similar process. I think they’ve been looking at this for almost 2 or 3 years now and they finally just made their decision between Long Island and just outside of the Washington, D.C. area. The process they used to determine the location is very similar to the process that some large corporations go through for you. However, it doesn’t have to take that long. There are things you can do to short cut that time period. The number one thing you can do to shorten the amount of time it takes to get a large corporate contract is to be on top of your game.
This sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised at how many folks mess this one thing up. In order to prevent that from happening, you have to be very specific and clear about what it is that you do when you initially talk to corporate buyers. If you are on top of your game, you know what you are looking for and you can quickly and clearly demonstrate why you are the best option. That is going to shorten the amount of time it takes for you to land a contract day-in and day-out. It really and truly is that simple.
The question then becomes how do you convince the buyer that you are on top of your game? You must know your subject matter. Be an expert in whatever it is you’re selling. You should be a walking encyclopedia around why your company is the best in your field. The buyer has to have confidence that, based on the presentation you give, you can deliver as promised. Next, you have to be able to tell the buyer why you are the best at what you do in the context of their business, which means that you need to have done your homework about their business.
For example, you need to be able to say to the buyer, ”I’ve researched your company and it seems to me that these may be some of the challenges that you are having. If I’m right, here’s what it’s costing you. And if I’m indeed right about this too, then here’s where I think that we can impact your business and make a difference”. To paraphrase, you may say, “companies like yours typically have this kind of issue. Here’s what it is costing you. Here’s the frustration in your organization and here’s what you can do to alleviate it. And here’s going to be the benefit you’re going to receive now”.
Think about how that lands with someone who may not know what the problem is or what the opportunity is.
Blueprint Pros, that is a wonderful conversation. If you deliver that to me as the buyer in about three to five minutes, I’m going to say “look, if we don’t go across the room and talk now, I’m definitely calling you in to talk because I’ve got some people that I want you to meet ASAP”. I am now excited. I am impressed. And whether you know this or not, you have put me in a fantastic position to be a hero – to bring a new company into my organization that can actually hit the ground running and make a difference. Now, most supply chain people and supplier diversity people are not looking for the accolades. They’re not looking for the gratitude, but it’s a great feeling for them when they’ve brought somebody in that is a winner. Everybody wants a winner. Big companies aren’t doing business with losers.
Most suppliers are competent at what they do. There also are some terrible suppliers out there. However, once they’ve gotten their foot in the door and become integrated into the company, they are still performing and they’ve gotten themselves into a fantastic position. This is the situation you want to get yourself into, quite frankly, where your company provides enough value that it costs too much money to cancel your contract. If you get yourself into a position where it’s too much pain for somebody to cancel your contract, that will at least give you enough time to develop innovation to get everything back on track and maintain your preferred supplier position.
Additionally, you have to be very careful when picking your target markets. For instance, if you’re trying to sell staffing services to companies that are staff heavy rather than equipment heavy, that might not be a really good market. You really and truly have to give some serious thought when choosing your target market because that, as well, will determine how quickly you can get in and land an agreement.
In summary, choose your market carefully; know your stuff; be a subject matter expert; have a compelling business case for the person to whom you are speaking; and definitely be able to demonstrate that - given the opportunity - you will exceed expectation. That will get you your first contract.