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SME chat:How to win against big suppliers

These were followed by the friends of the selectors. Although we all got to be picked, those who were unknown were chosen last.
The same brutal process happens in the world of business and sales. The only difference is that not everyone gets to play.
When companies look for suppliers of goods and services, they first consider size and experience.

A three-year-old firm is barely noticed when there are 70-year-old veterans around. Neither does a seven employee outfit stand a chance against a national giant with 2 000 employees and branches in every corner of the country. And it is even worse if you have no relationship with anyone in the buying firm.

Unknown SMEs will not even appear on the suppliers’ list. That problems dog many small business owners: How do they get a chance to supply big companies when they are unknown?
Here are some strategies that will help you compete effectively against the big, known and long-established suppliers and get up high on that supplier list.

Think like a big player
How do big players think? It all starts in your mind. Entrepreneurship is first and foremost a mindset. You are not born an entrepreneur; you develop the mindset over time.
This means accepting that getting into business is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a bold move that requires big actions in order to survive. You must have a huge ambition, imagination, persistence, passion and conviction.
Look at good players in any game. They don’t hesitate. They work hard. They practice hard. Their mind is programmed to win each and every game. Even when they lose, they get up and try again and again until they win. Train your mind to think like a winner all the time.

Look like a big player
To get selected ahead of big competitors, you need to project the image of being big. You don’t necessarily need a big office and lots of cars to look big. Neither do you want to mislead customers to believe you are something that you are not.
You want to identify advantages that your company has from being the proverbial small fish in your market and leveraging that to your benefit.
If you deal with a small niche market, you can easily become the biggest player in that market. For example, a local software distribution and service company which specialises in SAP, has the bragging rights as being the biggest supplier in the region.
Although it started small, it has become big in its market, supplying the international enterprise software solution to big corporates and government departments.
With today’s technology, small companies have the capability of being just as powerful as larger companies.
A good website will make you stand out from the crowd. You don’t want those ‘90s websites that just show the basics such as “Home, About, Contact, Directions, Testimonials”, but there’s no meat, no compelling content.
You need a website that compels potential customers to come back.
You need to keep it updated with new and interesting content.

Project a professional image
To compete with big companies, you need to project a professional image. This starts with your business cards.
It is understandable for small companies to want to save costs by doing their own business cards.
But to present a potential customer with a smudged, rough edged, yellowing bit of paper will not project a professional image.
There are companies that will make, print and deliver business cards and company profiles at reasonable costs. Look them up at the Zimbabwe SME Suppliers Profiles page at http://smebusinesslink.com.
It’s important to take the style and design of your business cards and company profiles seriously or no one else will.
You need to do away with those Gmail and Yahoo email addresses.
Clearly, if you are giving someone a business card and you’ve got philchichoni34@gmail.com listed as your business email address, it just doesn’t connote professionalism. It doesn’t take a lot of technical know-how to register a domain. An Internet expert will explain how you can do it yourself at a very low cost at the SME business seminar on December 2.

In the world of big deals, being able to deliver a service fast is a big plus.
Small companies don’t have the red tape, formalities and politics common in big companies.
You can differentiate your company by making this argument:
“If you need your project completed in a year, any of us can do it. If you need it in six months, there are 4-5 companies that can.
“If you need this completed and fully functional in three months, you’re stuck — we’re the one. We are the 3-month company.”
Changing the language away from capability and moving it to specialty changes the perception.

lPhillip Chichoni is a strategic business planning and financial management consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email chichonip@smebusinesslink.com

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