Inside the mind of the Corporate Buyer: Supplier Diversity Trade Show Etiquette

The supplier diversity business trade show season is currently in full bloom.  Companies are strategizing over which events to attend, who should go to represent their company, and what their targeted list of potential clients should be.  As a former corporate buyer, I have several tips that if implemented, can increase a diverse supplier’s ROI with these events:

1)      Never ask the potential customer’s Buyer/Rep: “What does your company do?”

Usually most organizations publish a list of companies having booths at business fairs in advance. Attendees of these events should use that list to do research on the businesses they wish to target in advance of the fair.  Not doing so shows a lack of maturity in your sales strategy.

2)      Focus on demonstrating how your business can help their company.

As a salesperson, it is your responsibility to explain the benefits of a new company buying your products or services, not the other way around. Will your ‘X’ provide improve speed, quality, or cost as compared to the company’s current supply chain partner? If this is a new service, how would it help a company gain an advantage over its competitors and increase market share?  If you cannot clearly state these reasons to a potential customer, you have more work to do.

3)      Being a MWSBE cannot be your only value proposition.

Each time a Procurement Professional makes a supplier recommendation after an RFX, she or he places their reputation on the line.  If something goes wrong, they will receive some blame for leading the process that recommended a supplier that failed.  Because of this, evaluation criteria for RFX’s include several different factors, including but not limited to cost, quality, speed of delivery, etc. Being a diverse supplier is a plus, but it cannot be your only differentiator.
4)      Know your competition, and why your value proposition is better than theirs.

Be able to speak specifically on how doing business with your company instead of your competition would be beneficial to the buyer’s company. 

5)      Register as a supplier on the prospective client’s website.

If a prospective company has an online supplier registration (OSR) tool, be sure to fully complete the registration of your company prior to the event.  Be prepared to upload any diversity certifications you have obtained.  Why is this important?  These tools are normally the first place a buyer goes to start building a potential supplier list for RFX’s.  At a glance, buyers will choose to discontinue or pursue investigating your company further based on this information!  View these opportunities as mini RFI’s.  Your chances of being invited to RFX’s could solely depend on the breadth and depth of information provided here.  If the potential client does NOT have an OSR Tool, it is appropriate to ask the buyer/ trade show representative how can your company get on their radar.  

By keeping these five simple steps in mind, I guarantee you will leave a positive impression on the potential customer.  The rest is up to you.  Good luck!  
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