As a procurement category specialist for contingent labor, I often convince and educate program stakeholders to accomplish various goals, and the training I received early in my career prepared me well to do that.
Over my years with various contingent labor programs, I have been responsible for, or influenced, the program’s supply base. But prior to my program management career, I have an additional decade of experience on the other side of the equation, having started my career in the staffing/consulting world.
During my time on the staffing supplier side of the equation, I held positions ranging from account management/business development, recruiting and eventually management. During that time, I received — as many of you have also — a lot of training regarding selling and relationship management. A wise mentor of mine during that time told me that every role in business is a “sales” role, and these skills are useful no matter which side of the desk you are on.
I share that bit of history with you to demonstrate that I understand what it is like to be on the supplier side. During these unprecedented times of Covid, when requisition activity has slowed and business development is at the forefront for suppliers, I would like to share some strategies that might improve your success in the now “virtual” world of business development, to engage more effectively with prospective buyers.
- Realize that program buyers are contacted by prospective suppliers daily.
- Use social media sales sourcing tools to identify likely prospects, but do not use them to send connection invitations and a pitch. Those will be immediately passed over. Instead, if the tool identifies a prospect, be a cyber-detective. Take the time to read and understand the prospect’s profile. Follow what articles they “like” or post and use that to identify what interests they have. Then craft a request that might resonate with them.
- Realize that those cold-calling gurus are very wrong. Do not be presumptuous when prospecting by leading off an initial contact with “prospective times for a call” to learn about their program. As I said before, do your homework and learn about their company and their program from other methods prior to initiating that contact.
- Understand that program teams are often operating with limited resources, and time is a precious commodity. Some suppliers consider me to be somewhat blunt. I consider myself to be a guardian of my time and believe in being transparent regarding opportunities for a prospective supplier on our program. Be a guardian of your time also.
- Be prepared, so that if you get that introductory call booked, you have something of value to the prospective buyer’s program to discuss. Again, research their organization, what they do and what challenges they face in their industry. For example, look through your candidate databases to find resources who have been engaged there; interview them about the organization and how that organization managed contingent labor. Do not just rely on telling the prospective buyer about your organization.
- Be patient and play the long game. If the prospective buyer has responded to your initial contact that they do not have any needs, respect that. Do not continue to blindly prospect all over the enterprise. Further, keep any follow-up at reasonable intervals. Being persistent is good; being overly persistent is not. Understand the balance, or you will likely find yourself and your organization on the “never add” list.
It’s a new world out there in this time of Covid. If you can show a prospective buyer during your virtual business development prospecting efforts that you have done your homework, understand the challenges they are facing, and make the case that if given the opportunity, you and your organization can provide value, you have greatly increased your odds for consideration.