Kick Your Business Into High Gear: Capture a Big Elephant.

The economy is beginning to show signs of recovery; however, small businesses continue to shy away from expansion plans.  If your company is struggling to simply maintain your current level of business, a new report finds that landing a big elephant as a customer may be your ticket to success.

Corporations are currently sitting on piles of cash and they typically spend billions of dollars a year with suppliers, but only a small percentage of that money is spent with small firms.  A research study from the Center for an Urban Future  found that becoming a corporate supplier is a springboard for growth.  Of those businesses responding to the survey, 70 percent reported significant growth in jobs and revenues during the two year period after becoming a corporate supplier.  Nearly two-thirds (63%) of corporate suppliers earn more than $500,000 annually whereas 77 percent of non-suppliers earn less than $500,000 annually.

The challenge for small businesses is how to tap into the corporate market.  Here are a few quick tips.

1.  Make a list of prospects.  Make a list of companies with which you’d like to work and then do your research.  How can you solve a problem for them and help them reach their goals?  Never approach a big elephant unprepared.  You need to give them a reason to change their current buying habits so make sure you clearly articulate your value proposition.

2.  Be Creative.  When it comes to hunting for the big elephant, there are obvious brands that will come to mind.  However, everyone is chasing those businesses.  So be creative.  Try to identify other less obvious firms who could use your products or services.  Once again, it’s all about doing your homework.

3.  Look Big.  Large companies need to have confidence in your ability to perform.  It’s imperative you present yourself as professionally as possible.  The first thing the big elephant will do once you’ve contacted them is an Internet search.  So make sure your digital presence presents the right image.  Review your website:  Does it represent your brand appropriately?  What about your social media platforms?  Are you positioning yourself as a market leader? What kinds of comments are posted about your business at online review sites?

4.  Network.  The best way to get beyond the gate-keepers with the big elephant is a warm introduction and/or referral.  Seek opportunities to meet people who work for the companies you’re targeting.  You never know who may be able to help you.  Perhaps a neighbor or someone from your gym.  Additionally, don’t be shy about asking your existing customers if they know someone who they can refer you to.  Your network can be a powerful asset to get you in the door.

5.  Get Certified.  If you are a women-owned or minority-owned business, certification may enhance your opportunities to land a big elephant.  Many large companies are looking for qualified women-owned and minority-owned businesses to become suppliers.  However, simply getting that certification alone isn’t enough.  You still need to follow the first four tips.  For example, I get mailings from recently certified companies announcing their status with a list of their products or services.  No one is going to pick up the phone and call you because you’re certified.  Certification may give you a slight competitive advantage, but you must still do the work to prove your value.

Good luck and good hunting.

For more on this topic, check out The One Percent Club Podcast with sales guru, Jill Konrath.