12 Ways to Access the Buyer

 I was delighted to be involved in the Access the Buyer event. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by so many entrepreneurs and feel that I could in some small way help them with their business growth aspirations. It was also a great event for the Santander brand to be associated with.” 

Rachel Baynes, Santander UK

We were pleased to be recently invited by Business in the Community (BITC) to co-faciliate an Access the Buyer Launch Event for the Creative & Digital Sector, building on our experience of connecting large and small companies and helping them work together collaboratively and profitably.

Supported by Santander, the programme helps SMEs access large business supply opportunities by bringing buyers and suppliers together. I arrived at the Hub Westminster and felt right at home in the super studio for the new economy. As I was practicing my curveballs for the workshop a steady trickle of entrepreneurial SMEs began to fill the space with expectation. All waiting patiently and anxiously to exchange their ‘money can’t buy’ ticket to access top marketing professionals from IBM, Santander, Ogilvy Group UK and Odeon/UCI Cinemas.

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“Initiatives like Access the Buyer are an invaluable way of us helping and advising SMEs how to navigate their way through our procurement processes. But they are also a great way to remind organisations like ours of what’s out there and enabling that first point of contact.”

Bill Sullivan, IBM

Each of these buyers were offering exclusive insights into how SMEs can find the right door to knock on, get their foot in the door and then convert those “let’s meet for a coffee” meetings into commercial opportunities within their respective organisations. I say exclusive insights, because as Stephen Howard (CEO, BITC) aptly put it, “Large companies seem to go out of their way to keep SMEs out of their supply chain!”.

Before the main event commenced, I took stage as the un-signed act to run a creative ice-breaker called the ‘3 minute Joint Venture’. Giving participants the opportunity to speed network in pairs to create simple unexpected partnerships in just 3 minutes. After all, connecting capabilities make more compelling propositions to wet the Buyers’ appetites. Then following the courteous introductions each Buyer presented a ‘Live Innovation Brief’ to seed proposals responding to a key unmet need their organisation was seeking to fulfil. This provided an immediate opportunity for interested SMEs to connect with the Buyers and present their fresh and innovative solutions in response to the following interesting questions:

  • IBM – “Can you help IBM design smarter technological and digital solutions for UK cities that meet their need to deliver against citizen demand during times of austerity?”
  • Santander – “Can you help raise awareness and consideration of Santander with business owners, with a new & innovative creative marketing approach?”
  • Ogilvy Group UK – “Can you help Ogilvy Group with creative and innovative solutions to: i) measure the impact of Behavioural Change and ii) manifest the Internet of Things?”
  • Odeon/UCI Cinemas – “Can you help Odeon/UCI Cinemas provide a second screen wrapper to complete the film experience using web tech or mobile play?”

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We have a philosophy here at 100%Open, ‘Conversations first, then relationships, then transactions’. To help SMEs make sure they execute that philosophy in the right order, I ran an Open Innovation clinic throughout the event, offering SMEs a 15 minute speed coaching session prior to brokering introductions to the Buyers they wanted to access. I ended up being oversubscribed after 10 sessions and apologise to those I was unable to speak to on the day. By way of compensating for the disappointment here is my cheat sheet for accessing buyers:

  1. Ideas are worthless – Don’t just pitch your idea. Show how you can execute on that idea and have an impact on their bottom line.
  2. Tailor made – Don’t just give the generic spiel, show that you understand them and their business and customise your pitch accordingly.
  3. Dress for the occasion – It’s a fine balance but look to stand out whilst also fitting in – so think carefully about how you can best present yourself in terms of personality, presentation and materials.
  4. Lost in translation – Be very careful of using jargon or acronymns and don’t assume others know what you are talking about. Convey what you mean clearly and confidently.
  5. The left angle – Be really clear about how what you can do is different from everybody else. Is it about quality, speed, cost, service?
  6. Address.ip – Be clear about your business model and approach to IP but also be flexible and open to offers.
  7. Source code – Make sure you understand their procurement process and make it easy for them to tick their boxes.
  8. Knock knock who’s there – Make sure you are talking to the right person who needs what you are selling. And an introduction or connection via a credible shared contact is always worth much more than an unsolicited approach.
  9. Build the buzz before, during and after – Convey enthusiasm for what you and demonstrate how others are excited too.
  10. Better together – Make sure you clarify what’s in it for both of you and also where the risks may lie too, and seek a mutually beneficial outcome.
  11. Observe the speed limit – Be keen and follow up quickly but remember that corporate time often runs much slower than normal time so be prepared to play the long game.
  12. Provide the ammunition – There is always another buyer not in the room that you need to convince indirectly, so give your audience the evidence and data they need to tell your story.

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It was a very engaging event and to be able to meet so many SMEs in one space brimming with positive energy and thinking was fascinating. I look forward to taking some ideas to actions.”

Andy Edge, Odeon/UCI Cinemas

With around 60 small businesses attending the event, the Open Innovation clinic and subsequent offline requests resulted in 20 responses to the ‘Live Innovation Briefs’ and a total of 37 unique introductions brokered between the ‘Davids’ and the ‘Goliaths. These stats are on top of the countless micro-connections, exchanges of ideas, solutions and business cards that resulted from the roundtable discussions and the breaks. The bee hive was definitely buzzing!

I left the event feeling as energised and enthused as much as the participants did. Thanks to the BITC team for hosting a great gig and to the Buyers for supporting the event and sharing their insights and unmet needs. Also a special thanks to Lance Younger for co-faciliating the day alongside me. I hope the conversations keep going, the relationships keep building, and the transactions start happening.

by Jogesh

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