As a small, diverse-owned business, landing a contract to sell your goods or services to a corporate enterprise can take your business to the next level, increasing your revenue and accelerating your growth. So how do you make it happen? Corporate enterprises often have complex procurement processes and specific requirements that suppliers must meet. This can be particularly daunting for a small, diverse-owned business. In this blog post, we’ll explore the unique challenges that small and diverse suppliers face when selling to enterprises and offer a step-by-step process to overcome these obstacles.
For diverse suppliers, the challenges often stem from the sheer size and scope of the opportunities presented by enterprise businesses. These organizations typically have more complex procurement processes, which may include multiple layers of approval, detailed supplier assessments, and stringent compliance requirements. For smaller businesses with fewer resources, navigating these processes can be a significant hurdle. Our previous blog post covered the procurement process. Go back and read it if you need to understand it better or want a refresher.
Additionally, large, enterprise businesses often have specific requirements that suppliers must meet, such as certifications, insurance coverage, and financial stability. These requirements can be more difficult for diverse suppliers to fulfill, as they may not have the same access to resources or networks as their larger counterparts. Moreover, diverse suppliers may face biases and misconceptions about their capabilities, making it even more challenging to win contracts.
Despite these challenges, diverse suppliers have unique value to offer in terms of innovation, agility, and perspectives that can drive significant benefits for their clients. By understanding the nuances of selling to enterprise businesses diverse suppliers can effectively position themselves for success in a competitive market.
In the sections to follow, we’ll delve deeper into each aspect of this process. We’ll offer both guidance and insights to help diverse suppliers navigate the complexities of selling to large and enterprise businesses. From identifying your ideal customer to refining your sales process, we’ll explore the key factors that can make or break your success in this space.
Identify Your Ideal Customer
Before diving into the world of enterprise businesses, diverse suppliers must first identify their ideal customer. As a diverse supplier, knowing your ideal customer is essential for several reasons. It allows you to target your marketing efforts more effectively, tailor your sales strategy to resonate with the right audience, and ultimately increase your chances of success.
Consider the following characteristics of enterprise businesses when identifying your ideal customer:
- Industry: Identify the industries that your products or services are best suited for.
- Size: Determine the size of businesses that your products or services can effectively serve.
- Procurement Process: Understand the procurement processes of large and enterprise businesses, as these can vary significantly from smaller businesses.
By having a clear understanding of the characteristics of your ideal customer, such as their industry, company size, and procurement process, you can develop a more focused and impactful approach to winning business.
How to research your potential customers
To research these industries and company sizes, and to gain insights into their procurement processes, there are several resources available. Industry reports, trade publications, and online databases can provide valuable information about specific industries and their procurement practices. Websites like LinkedIn can also be useful for networking with professionals in target industries and learning about their procurement processes and requirements. Don’t forget about our upcoming panel, which will feature industry leaders from big corporations discussing supplier diversity practices, as well as sharing insights into the procurement process.
When examining your existing customer base, it’s crucial to look for patterns and trends that may indicate the types of businesses that are most receptive to your offerings. Consider factors such as industry, company size, geographic location, and procurement preferences. Analyzing your most successful customers can help you identify commonalities that may be key drivers in their decision to work with you as a diverse supplier. This information can then be used to refine your targeting and sales strategies.
Network with industry experts
To gain a deeper understanding of the needs and preferences of large enterprise businesses, it’s valuable to seek out industry experts who can offer insights and guidance. These experts can include procurement professionals, consultants, and executives from large corporations. Engaging with these experts can help you gain a more nuanced understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities that exist when working with large enterprise businesses. In addition, attending industry conferences, diverse supplier mixers, and events hosted by regional supplier diversity advocacy groups can provide opportunities to network with corporate buyers and other key stakeholders.
Understanding your ideal customer is a crucial first step in positioning your diverse-owned business for success in the world of large and enterprise procurement. By conducting thorough research, analyzing your existing customer base, and seeking out expert insights, you can develop a targeted approach that maximizes your chances of winning contracts and growing your business.
Research and Understand Your Prospects
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, it’s crucial to thoroughly research and understand your prospects. In addition to gathering information about their industry, size, and procurement process, it’s essential to understand what your prospective customer requires of its suppliers. In particular, make sure to be aware of the following:
Insurance and Bonding Requirements
Enterprises often require suppliers to have specific insurance and bonding coverage. Research the typical requirements for suppliers in your sector and ensure you can meet them. Typical insurance and bonding requirements may include general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and performance bonds. Securing these requirements can be difficult for diverse suppliers due to limited financial resources or a lack of established relationships with insurance providers. Smaller or newer businesses might face challenges in demonstrating their ability to meet the necessary coverage levels, as insurers may perceive them as higher risk.
Highly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, energy and utilities, and financial services, may require suppliers to hold specific licenses. Be prepared to obtain any necessary licenses and demonstrate compliance.
Some examples of industry-specific licenses that may be required for highly regulated industries include the following:
- For construction, state or local contractor licenses may be required, as well as specialty licenses for specific trades like plumbing, electrical, or HVAC.
- In the pharmaceutical industry, companies may need to obtain a wholesale drug distributor license or a pharmacy license.
- In financial services, a business may need to obtain a broker-dealer or investment adviser license.
To obtain these licenses, diverse suppliers should research the licensing requirements in their specific industry and jurisdiction, and then follow the application process outlined by the relevant licensing authority.
Assess whether the scale of prospects’ opportunities is within your capacity. If not, have a plan in place for increasing capacity through partnerships or financing.
To assess whether an opportunity is within their capacity, diverse suppliers should evaluate their financial, human, and operational resources. For example, a construction company might examine its current workforce, equipment, and financial stability to determine if it can complete a large-scale project on time and within budget. If a diverse supplier determines that the opportunity is beyond its existing capacity, it may consider partnering with another company, obtaining financing through loans or investors, or seeking out mentorship and guidance from established businesses in the industry.
Diverse Supplier Pipeline
The diverse supplier pipeline refers to the process through which diverse suppliers are identified, developed, and ultimately integrated into the procurement processes of large enterprise businesses. This pipeline often includes development opportunities such as training programs, workshops, and networking events that aim to strengthen the capabilities of diverse suppliers and increase their chances of winning contracts.
Examples of development opportunities for diverse suppliers include:
- Supplier diversity workshops and seminars that teach best practices for bidding on contracts and navigating procurement processes.
- Business development programs that provide training in areas such as finance, marketing, and operations.
- Networking events that connect diverse suppliers with procurement professionals, industry leaders, and potential partners.
By participating in these development opportunities, diverse suppliers can gain valuable knowledge, skills, and connections that can help them grow their businesses and succeed in the competitive world of large enterprise procurement.
Build Your Value Proposition
A strong value proposition is essential when selling to large enterprise businesses. Articulating a value proposition is especially crucial for diverse suppliers because they often face additional challenges in securing contracts and breaking into competitive markets. A well-crafted value proposition can highlight your unique strengths and showcase the value you bring to your clients, helping you stand out from competitors. Your value proposition should effectively communicate the unique value you bring to your prospects, such as specialized expertise, innovative solutions, or a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.
To develop a compelling value proposition:
- Identify the key benefits your products or services offer, focusing on what sets you apart from competitors.
- Clearly articulate how your products or services address your prospects’ pain points or challenges.
- Provide evidence to support your claims, such as case studies, testimonials, or industry awards.
To determine or research what sets them apart, diverse suppliers can:
- Analyze their unique skills, experiences, or perspectives that contribute to their offerings.
- Review client feedback to identify areas where they excel.
- Benchmark their performance against industry standards or competitors.
Including these differentiators in your value proposition is essential. What it does is demonstrates your competitive advantage and helps potential clients understand why they should choose the diverse supplier over other options.
Here are some examples of diverse suppliers in 3 common industries and how they can articulate their value proposition:
Construction: A minority-owned construction company might emphasize its expertise in culturally sensitive design or its ability to work with diverse communities. They can address prospects’ pain points by showcasing their ability to complete projects on time, within budget, and with high-quality workmanship.
IT Services: A women-owned IT services firm could highlight its commitment to gender diversity and innovative problem-solving. They can address client challenges by demonstrating their expertise in specific technologies, providing tailored solutions, and offering exceptional customer support.
Food & Beverage: A veteran-owned food and beverage supplier might focus on its disciplined approach to quality control and efficient operations. They can address prospects’ pain points by ensuring consistent product quality, offering competitive pricing, and providing excellent customer service.
Knowing how to articulate these value propositions is important because it helps diverse suppliers communicate the unique benefits they bring to the table and demonstrate how they can effectively address their clients’ needs.
To find industry awards to submit for, diverse suppliers can:
- Research professional organizations and associations within their industry.
- Follow industry news and publications to stay informed about upcoming award opportunities.
- Network with other professionals in their industry to learn about potential award programs.
While diverse suppliers may face additional barriers to entry or recognition, many industry awards specifically target diverse businesses or encourage their participation, making them accessible and valuable opportunities for diverse suppliers.
Collecting testimonials or creating case studies can be challenging when dealing with clients who have NDAs or restrictions on sharing their information. In such cases, diverse suppliers can:
- Request permission to use anonymous testimonials or case studies that do not disclose the client’s name or logo.
- Seek out clients who are open to providing testimonials or participating in case studies.
- Focus on sharing success stories or testimonials from smaller projects that do not involve NDAs or confidentiality restrictions.
By using these strategies, diverse suppliers can still showcase their success and build credibility with potential clients, even when faced with confidentiality constraints.
Develop Your Sales Strategy
With a clear value proposition in place, it’s time to develop a sales strategy tailored to large and enterprise businesses. It is crucial for a diverse supplier to have a sales strategy geared towards large and enterprise businesses because securing contracts with these organizations can lead to higher revenues, increased visibility, and long-term partnerships.
A sales strategy tailored to enterprise businesses differs from a typical sales strategy in several ways:
- Longer sales cycles: Large organizations often have more complex decision-making processes and longer procurement timelines.
- Customization: Enterprise clients may require tailored solutions or services to meet their specific needs, which means a more consultative and personalized sales approach.
- Multiple stakeholders: In large organizations, there may be several decision-makers involved in the purchasing process, requiring a diverse supplier to engage and influence multiple stakeholders.
Consider the following sales channels when crafting your strategy:
- Direct sales: Reach out to potential customers directly through cold calling, emailing, or attending industry events.
- Referrals: Leverage your existing network to gain introductions to potential customers.
- Partnerships: Collaborate with other businesses or organizations that serve your target market to increase your reach.
It is crucial for a diverse supplier to have a sales strategy geared towards large and enterprise businesses because securing contracts with these organizations can lead to higher revenues, increased visibility, and long-term partnerships.
Direct sales strategies can be successful for diverse suppliers if they focus on building relationships with the right contacts within large and enterprise businesses. To find these contacts, diverse suppliers can:
- Use professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to identify key decision-makers within target organizations.
- Attend industry events, conferences, or trade shows to network with relevant professionals.
- Utilize their existing networks to get introductions or referrals to potential contacts.
Some job titles to look for within large and enterprise businesses include Procurement Manager, Supply Chain Manager, and Supplier Diversity Manager.
You might be looking for some advice on how to get referrals. Creative ways to get referrals from existing networks include:
- Offering incentives or rewards to clients, partners, or contacts for successful referrals.
- Building a strong reputation for providing excellent products or services, encouraging word-of-mouth referrals.
- Engaging with contacts on social media platforms and actively participating in industry-specific online communities.
Consider partnerships to expand your network and book opportunities
Because partnerships are a great way to get access to opportunities that might be out of scope this is a great option. However, when approaching other businesses or organizations for partnerships, diverse suppliers should:
- Research potential partners to understand their needs, objectives, and potential areas of collaboration.
- Develop a compelling value proposition that highlights the mutual benefits of the partnership.
- Establish a relationship by networking, attending events, or engaging with potential partners on social media.
In-person networking at business diversity conferences, diverse supplier mixers, and industry/regional supplier diversity advocacy groups can also be an effective way to connect with corporate buyers looking for diverse suppliers.
Explore Business Diversity Conferences
Examples of business diversity conferences and industry/regional supplier diversity advocacy groups to seek out include:
- National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) Conference & Business Opportunity Exchange
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair
- US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC) CelebrAsian Procurement Conference
- National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) International Business & Leadership Conference
- Regional supplier diversity councils, such as the Pacific Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council (PSWMSDC) or the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council (ChicagoMSDC).
By participating in these events and engaging with advocacy groups, diverse suppliers can expand their networks, increase their visibility, and potentially secure valuable contracts with large and enterprise businesses. In our next post of the series, we’re talking about how to develop your capability statement which is an excellent tool for diverse suppliers to use to share with enterprise buyers.
Diverse Supplier Procurement Panel
We also invite you to attend our upcoming virtual panel event, “Behind the Curtain: Insights from Big Corporations on How They Select Diverse Suppliers.” Co-hosted by our CEO at Hire Ground, Cloe Guidry, and Adam Moore, Supplier Diversity Leader and Cohost of the Breaking Barriers podcast, this event will feature a panel of corporate executives who have extensive experience in supplier diversity and procurement. During the panel, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what big corporations look for in diverse suppliers, how to communicate effectively with procurement teams, and how to build long-term relations