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'Get your foot in the door' - 4 ways to succeed with big businesses

Talking procurement strategies, supplier development as well as how to get that contract


Earlier this month SME South Africa ran the #FixMyBiz campaign asking readers to send us their questions – big or small and on any topic. Not surprisingly we received many questions from entrepreneurs asking how they can successfully integrate themselves into the supply chains of larger companies.

Kealeboga Mokolobate, an enterprise and supplier development (ESD) account manager at Lean Enterprise Acceleration Programmes responded to the reader's questions and gave us her expert view on the specific inquiry.

Mokolobate returns to further explore good supply chain management practices that SMEs can implement as well as strategies for earning a potential client's confidence.

1. Patience and perseverance is the name of the game in courting a potential new client. Plotting to have a client's current supplier removed from their supply chain will not gain you any new points. A bit of 'sweet talk' - backed up with effort and tangible results - will get you much further.

Be willing to start from the bottom and take whichever small contracts they are willing to throw your way. Take them seriously and you will get results.

If you have your sights set on a specific client, go to the same events they go to and make a name for yourself as to understand their values and standards.

2. As the famous Nike slogan goes "Just do it"- and do it fast. This applies when dealing with any potential new clients. Part of gaining your clients' confidence is being able to get simple tasks right, and accomplishing them quickly. These include generating a quote or providing samples for your product.

Quotes and invoices should be sent within two hours, the simple reason for this is that many of your potential clients work in fast-paced environments, and thus they will not procure from your business, if you cannot keep up.

3. Change the lens through which you see your products and offerings. Entrepreneurship is innovation in action, thus you need to create products that are actually needed by the market. In addition to this, ensure that your products suit the potential client that you are courting. Learn to reposition your product in the market so that it is most accessible to people actually willing to buy it. To understand what a new client may need, research is key. Find out their sore points and identify where your product can fit in their picture. 

4. Industry knowledge is key. A good understanding of the various government legislations is crucial, this includes the B-BBEE codes of Good Practice and in particular the Enterprise and Supplier Development pillar which encourages larger businesses to procure from smaller businesses.

The aim of the Enterprise and Supplier Development programme is to ensure that larger businesses support smaller businesses to become sustainable and procurement-ready. Where possible, use these policies to your advantage. 

In conclusion, it is very important for small businesses to understand that being a supplier to a business is a privilege and that the stakes are high for anyone managing procurement in a business. Being unreliable or making a procurement manager’s job difficult is the kiss of death.

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