Patience and Getting in the Corporation’s Door

When I meet suppliers they frequently ask how long it might take until they get a chance to compete for our business. The answer to that question is always, “It depends.” There are many factors that come into play impacting when, and if, you will get to compete for business: when contracts will be coming up, what goods or services we might be purchasing at a given time and most importantly, if you are ready to compete at the corporate level.

I always tell suppliers to be patient, be ready to build a relationship and don’t expect things to happen overnight. I recently had a supplier who followed that advice and after waiting three years, is now in the middle of the bidding process.

This particular supplier had a very effective follow-up process.  We met at a national conference and the supplier was very well prepared with a presentation that was on point and professionally done. I advised the supplier that although I was interested, I did not see an immediate opportunity but to keep in touch. The supplier’s process was effective: Every six months or so I received either a voice mail or e-mail saying no response required, just don’t forget me. The messages sometimes included updates regarding the supplier’s services and/or a list of new clients or just a hello. All messages were personalized emphasizing how this supplier would not disappoint.

When a bid opportunity came up, the supplier who had so effectively and patiently followed up for three years was the first to come to mind. While three years is a long wait, when you know you are a fit and have something of value to offer, work with the corporate representative on the most effective way to follow-up so that when the right opportunity comes forward, you will be given the long awaited chance to compete.