I’m often asked, “Sydni, how do you find so many great opportunities to grow your business?” So I want to share a behind the scenes story of how we walk our talk and open new doors for ourselves to attract the perfect clients for our business:
We decided a few months ago that we wanted to diversify our client base by securing ongoing contracts with larger B2B companies. In doing some research, I came across a business matchmaking event that introduces small business with large business. The goal is to create opportunities for the small business to land large contracts and the large company to meet their supplier diversity requirements. (This means they need to do a certain amount if business with woman owned, minority owned and disadvantage businesses.) I signed up and scheduled appointments with each of the companies I wanted to meet.
Lesson: Determine what specific goal you want to achieve and take specific action to support that goal. Chose your opportunities strategically. Don’t network just for the sake of doing so. Show up where the ideal prospects you want to meet are going to be.
I prepared for the event. I did a little research on each company. I prepared a folder with my bio, our company fact sheet, our company profile, a sheet of testimonials, and my business card. I picked out a comfortable outfit, polished up my “this is what I do and whom I do it for statement,” and showed up on time. Last but not least I set an intention for what I wanted to get out of the experience.
Lesson: Prepare very well. Know your value and be able to convey that value succinctly. (No wordy explanations allowed!) Show up! Be intentional and confident about what you want to gain from the experience.
With each contact I met at the event, I clearly and succinctly explained the value I offer. I also stated specifically what types of opportunities I was looking for. When I talked to the representative from Oracle he pulled his sheet of current opportunities and identified which were a fit for us. The best one was a bid that was larger than anything we’ve ever done.
Though it felt intimidating, it was definitely the type of opportunity we’d been looking for. The rep told me what I needed to do to register for the opportunity. I took action right on the spot and began the registration process.
Lesson: Take action immediately. Don’t shrink back from an opportunity that feels bigger than you. Step up your game and throw your hat in the ring!
Two days later we got the bid docs. I pulled together the team, tapped into my network for help understanding the RFP (which sounded like a foreign language) and put together the best proposal I could. I found out we were one of 11 bidders. Two days later, I got word we were on the short list. That meant an interview with the decision maker. I prepared a brief presentation for the interview and rocked it! A week later I found out we were one of the top 2 contenders! (Mind you… We’ve never done anything like is before.)
Lesson: Ask for help and use what you learn. Confidently talk about the benefits and results your work creates. Believe in yourself or no one else will!
Two weeks later we found out we were not selected as the vendor. But we still won! First, we won because the process allowed me to get acquainted with a well-connected procurement professional who is now an advocate for my business. Second, I learned how to successfully navigate an RFP process. Third, we beat out nine competitors on our first try. Fourth, we are now on the short list of marketing vendors and will be invited to bid on all future opportunities. Fifth, we’re now being featured as a flagship business for a new mentoring program Oracle is creating.
Lesson: Just because one door shuts doesn’t mean an opportunity is lost forever. Focus on what IS possible and focus on building quality relationships. That is where real opportunities lie.
As such, I’m attending the 2013 WBENC National Conference as a guest of Oracle and networking with women owned business owners who have companies 4-5 times larger than ours (which is the exact target market I’m pursuing). Plus I’m being introduced to key decision makers at companies like Cisco, Microsoft, HP and more.
Lesson: Stay focused on your intention and take action accordingly. Don’t get overly discouraged and don’t give up. Keep knocking on the right doors and the perfect opportunity will appear right before your eyes!
The most important takeaway I can share with you from this experience is decide on what you want and act accordingly! Focus on ONLY the activities and opportunities that will get you one step closer to your goal and take action consistently. If you do, you’ll have a thriving, profitable business in no time.