The first of several 2011 Business Matchmaking events, which match small business sellers with corporate and government buyers in face-to-face meetings, is quickly approaching.
If you’ve never participated in Business Matchmaking (BMM) here’s a few statistics that might change your mind: the events have facilitated more than 77,000 seller-buyer meetings resulting in over 8 billion dollars in contracts granted.
I thought that would get your attention.
As the director of HP Global Supplier Diversity, Development & Sustainability, I have participated in the events as a “buyer” for several years. Here are my top tips to increase your chances for successful meetings.
Do your homework – The corporations and government agencies represented at BMM sessions are all fairly transparent. While some buying entities do more to educate potential sellers than others, a seller need only spend a few minutes of online research to gain an understanding of a buyer’s strategic plans and priorities. The last thing that you as seller want to do is to – for example – pitch a buyer on your medical products, when that buyer very publically sold off its medical division two weeks ago. In the days leading up to a BMM event, the organizers will provide each registered seller with a list of appointments and the buying entities with whom the buyer has been matched. I encourage sellers to use this information to begin researching and preparing to make the most of the 15 minute matchmaking sessions.
Lead with your value proposition – The BMM experience is sometimes described as “speed dating for small business.” Very much like speed dating, business owners have only a brief few minutes to make a lasting impression on the buyer across the table before the bell rings and they are ushered off to the next encounter. The best way to quickly catch the interest and attention of a buyer is to lead with your value proposition, ideally in a way to speaks to that buyer’s needs. Instead of saying “…what is HP looking to buy…”, you must lead with “here are the products/services that I offer; here is what distinguishes my business; and here is what I can do for HP…” As you do you, keep in mind that the buyer at the table may not be responsible for your specific commodity. Make it easy for the buyer to help you by crisply identifying where your solution lives in the enterprise, and who in the business is your target customer.
Manage the follow-up – I always recommend that sellers resist the urge to hand every buyer their glossy new ten pound product catalog. As much pride as we may have in our printed materials and product samples, we must remember that the buyers may be meeting with dozens of sellers that day, and that many buyers have travelled in for the matchmaking day. It is a good idea to pass on your documentation on electronic media (for example a CD or USB thumb drive), or to offer to e-mail any documents after the matchmaking session. This also makes it easier for the buyer to share your information with others in the organization. Before you leave the table, be sure that you have determined the mode of follow-up, if any. It is fine to simply ask the buyer “how should I plan to follow-up with you?” Finally as you do follow up, feel free to be “politely persistent” and “amiably aggressive.” You don’t want to upset or alienate a buyer, but at times it pays to be the squeaky wheel.
While there is no standard guaranteed recipe for success, these practices should help you get the most out of your Business Matchmaking experience. I hope to see you across the table!