SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (MAY 19, 2017) - While engaging with potential buyers may serve as a well-developed skill for seasoned sales professionals, it may still pose a challenge for some business owners and managers, whether they are expanding to a new industry or introducing their products and services to a Fortune 500 corporation.
The Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council invited procurement executives from member corporations and public agencies to provide direction on how to leverage essential tools for business engagement. The Council worked with supplier diversity and procurement executives from AT&T, The Boeing Company, City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Microsoft Corporation, MUFG Union Bank, N.A. and Starbucks Corporation to help participating minority business enterprises (MBEs) develop strong capabilities statements and effective introductory communication, commonly referred to as a sales pitch or elevator pitch.
Based on panel discussions and presentations, the Council presented the top three elements for strong capabilities statements as: (1) know your audience - do research and build relevant value propositions that illustrate an alignment of corporate cultures and values. (2) Articulate your differentiating factor - substantiate "what makes you different" with current case studies, proof of concept and documented results, and (3) be succinct - be careful with statements that are longer than 1-2 sentences, focus on a product/service and its benefits, and present it in a clean, organized and creative way.
How many pages should a capabilities statement have? The range is between 1-4 pages and definitely no more than 8-10 pages. What not to do? Don't try to sell everything, don't use a generic email address, don't present a wall of text (with no creative format, graphics, metrics, or examples), avoid typographic errors (typos reflect poor attention to detail), and don't present conflicting information between capabilities statements, websites and online profiles.
The introductory communication should reflect what is in the capabilities statement. The top three elements were: (1) start with key differentiators - an effective way to capture attention and steer the conversation in a positive direction. Information that is relevant to the target audience can be used as a starting point followed with a solution or proposal. (2) Present case studies, proof of concept, innovation, as well as results based on metrics, and (3) be authentic - personalize the message, draw on your inner passion and genuine interests. Make the communication memorable and open up possibilities.
How long should introductory communication last? Introducing a company in a nutshell should not exceed 2 minutes. To develop confidence, practice in front of a mirror and take every opportunity to speak in public. What not to do? Don't rely on written notes or anything that can distract from making eye contact, don't begin with "I'm a minority business so you have to do business with me," and don't dominate the conversation by not engaging your prospective customer.
"Preparing for Effective Engagement" is a three-part series designed to build skill and confidence among MBEs. Parts one and two were held on April 27and May 18. Led by Fernando Martinez, President and CEO of the Council, a panel of six supplier diversity and procurement executives met with fifteen MBEs and presented information on how to do business with their respective companies, how to develop a strong capabilities statement and how to deliver a 2-minute introductory communication. They reviewed MBE capabilities statements and introductory communication with feedback and recommendations for improvement. Part three of the series will coincide with the 2017 Annual Conference on June 14 at the University of Washington where MBEs will have the opportunity to apply what they learned from the series. They will come face-to-face with procurement executives and decision makers. The Council will count on each MBE to make a lasting impression. "The purpose of the series is to create a learning space for minority business owners and managers where they can understand real decision-making processes from companies they seek to do business with," said Martinez. "Our objective is to equip MBEs with the exposure they need to gain more confidence - and ultimately, a greater chance of securing contracts."
To learn more, or to participate in the next implementation of the series, contact the Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council at 253-243-6959 or visit the Council website, www.nwmtnmsdc.org.
About the Council
Founded in 1978, the Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to drive economic value by equalizing opportunities. As an affiliate of the National MSDC, the Council certifies minority owned businesses and provides access to supplier development, supply chain inclusion, networking events and even formal introductions. The Council serves the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.