The Difference Between Supplier Diversity and Procurement—Are You Pitching to the Right Person?

You’ve heard it before and you know it’s true:  People do business with people they know, they like, and they trust.  It’s all about relationships and relationship building in life and in business.  One of the keys to success in business development is to understand the jargon.  One of the most misunderstood relationships is that of supplier diversity and procurement.  Do you know the difference?

They are on the same team, so to speak.  They generally report to the same department, but their roles are different.  Understanding that can be the difference between getting to the next step.  It can also be the difference between getting the contract or not.

In a nutshell, here is the difference:  the supplier diversity manager is your champion/advocate.  They are charged with making sure that diverse suppliers (women owned, minority owned, GLBT owned, veteran owned, etc.) have opportunities for business and contracts with large corporations.  The procurement officers manage suppliers and they are usually in charge of a certain category (printing, janitorial, construction, etc.).  Procurement officers work directly with prime contractors and can help introduce diverse suppliers to primes for contracting opportunities.

Do you see the difference?  As part of the same team they work very closely together and you should develop great relationships with both.  When you prepare for a matchmaker meeting it is important to know who you’re meeting with so that you know what to emphasize in your presentation.

If you are speaking to the supplier diversity manager

  • Give relevant information about your product and how it fits with the corporations goals
  • Be sure to request an introduction to the procurement officer for your product/service.
  • Ask about supplier diversity policies—certifications required, types of registrations required that are specific to the corporation.

If you are speaking to the procurement officer for your category

  • Be sure to let them know that you are interested in sub-contracting (often called Tier 2) opportunities.
  • Ask specific questions about contract opportunities: when will the current contract go out to bid again?
  • Do you know of any opportunities for companies like mine that will be out for bid in the near future?

No matter who you are speaking with:

  • Don’t forget to give relevant information about your product and how it fits with the corporation’s goals.
  • Mention similar clients and highlight the work you have done for them.
  • Be specific about the amount of money, time, and whatever else you saved another similar company and how you can do the same for them.
  • Use language they are familiar with: some corporations use the term “sustainability”, some refer to “green initiatives”—you can determine the language/jargon by going on their website and reading about the company.
  • Connect with the person on LinkedIn. You can do so before but especially after the meeting.  Linked In will give you lots of information you can use about the person you will be meeting with:  awards and recognition; groups they follow; articles they have written; educational background; previous positions, etc.  Use that information to make a personal connection.  And that is key because… people do business with people they know, they like and they trust.

Nancy Allen

Certified WBENC