I’m often asked what is the best way to approach a corporation for a contract. The answer is simple: speak their language and offer a solution they can use. Yes, that simple and also that hard. Well, hard if you don’t do your homework and hard if you don’t have a clear cut solution to provide.
The first thing to know is that every corporation has their own language and their own culture. Just as Spanish is not the same in every Spanish speaking country because of nuances and regionalisms, each industry and each corporation have variances that are very important to them.
How do you figure this out? How do you learn their language? Go to their website! Read the about us section and look for core values and vision and mission statements. Annual reports will also give you an indication of their language. Do they refer to their employees as team members? Do they have Supplier Diversity Programs or Supplier Diversity Initiatives? Do they have subsidiaries or strategic alliances or are they a family of companies? Do they buy from vendors or suppliers?
Once you know their language, mirror it. The easiest way to build rapport is to share a common language and cultural values. You can get a good feel for a corporation’s culture through their website and social media platforms. Your capabilities statement will resonate more with your prospect if it looks and feels familiar to them.
Let’s be clear: I’m not suggesting that you stifle your personality or brand or culture, rather I’m suggesting that you understand theirs and present yourself as a potential partner who has a solution they can use because there is alignment.
About solutions: That’s what you should be providing instead of trying to sell a product or service. Your solution has to be financially feasible, it has to be easy to understand and replicate, and it has to make the corporate person presenting it look smart and innovative. One corporate representative explained to me that if he were a small business owner he could make a contract decision based on a gut reaction, but as a corporate buyer he has to justify his decisions to his team and beyond his team to the division and beyond that to the EVP of Purchasing. That’s 3 layers of decision makers! Can your product or service solution hold up to 3 layers/levels of scrutiny?
So, how good is your corporate-speak?
The good news is that it’s a lot easier to get fluent than you think!