Being able to do business with a large company requires courage, strength and perseverance coupled with a well orchestrated business strategy. Nobody has large funds to push around like very big companies so many small businesses are always chasing them. So, you must be ready for the hot chase from several potential competitors. In order to win the battle and get a deal with a large company, you must show them that you are a serious organization and that you are reliable, in addition to being able to demonstrate that you can add value to their business operations.
First of all, you need to demonstrate your understanding of their business. I am not saying you should go and cram the content of their website and be repeating it to them during your proposal pitches to them. The knowledge of their business must help you in customizing your offerings to them.
Sometimes, you need to also demonstrate reliability and credibility of your business. Why should they trust you? Why should they believe that you can do it? Have you done similar stuff for other big businesses before? What are your experiences? I have offered some services to some large companies before at zero fees just to have them on my business profile that I have worked for such organizations before. This gave two benefits – the companies eventually hired us for a fee after seeing our capabilities and we were able to use that (free) service as a reference in bidding for similar engagements. So, we benefited immensely without getting paid!
The primary thing is how do you get such opportunities. If you are like me and you don’t have a popular surname (like Dangote, Obasanjo, Otedola, Tinubu, etc), then you need to be more creative to get your foot in the door of a big company. Here are some pointers:
Meet the right people. Since security men and receptionists are trained to keep people out of the company, it takes ingenuity and detective work to find the back door. Start with targeted company’s website for basic background information. If you can, get your hands on a company brochure to better navigate the hierarchy within each department. First, you need to know who the decision-makers, and then you can worry about how best to reach them. Learn about the protocols of the targeted business. For example, although most big companies have a purchasing department but it is very probable that the purchasing department might not be your best route to get to the CEO.
Build networks. Read the same magazines and trade journals as these companies, as well as some they don’t. If your research turns up a familiar name in the news or if you discover that someone important won an award, send him or her a congratulatory note on your company letterhead and include a business card. Send everyone your business’s simple brochure; your brochure should include the names of some of your other clients.
Go to the conferences and events that they go to. Meet everyone you can, at every level. Initiate and discuss topics about the industry or the competition. What do you think people pay for when they join elitist clubs like IBB Golf Club, Ikoyi Club and Yoruba Tennis Club? It’s all about strategy.
Become the expert. Turn your research into value. Start an e-mail newsletter or write articles on relevant business topics and include articles of interest. This way, you spread your name and reputation without being seen as a pest.
Finally, please note that it takes a huge time investment to do business with large companies. It could take up to seven presentations or meetings to get to the level where the company can finally make a decision. It’s business unusual.