“The fact is, large corporates can and do buy from small suppliers,” Says Brian Iddon, director at fibre-optic Internet service provider Venus Business Communications. “ In these days of austerity, everyone is looking for better value. That is the number one mistake that a lot of businesses make.”
Venus itself is a fine example of this approach, having won business from larger firms such as Tesla, TFL, Deliveroo and Uswitch simply by having a focused and clear proposition.
“You have to be very clear about the problem you are going to solve. You need a proposition that leaves the customer in no doubt about where you can add value. You also need to remember that the big companies you are selling into were once small as well. We have always had five points that have helped us sell to larger businesses. Firstly, do not be scared - just do it. Secondly, you have to be clear about the problem that you are solving. Thirdly, you have to do your research. Fourth, remove risk, and fifth, know when to walk away”
By following this stratergy Venus has grown from a small outfit to a solidly medium-sized firm boasting more than 1,500 business customers. Brian Iddon advised small firms that want to grow their business to be focused from the outset. “Think about the early Microsoft vision- a computer on every desk in every home” he points out. “They knew what they were about”
For smaller companies wanting to get bigger deals, Brian Iddon believes it is imperative that they get the right people on board who can champion the cause. There are no excuses in this day and age, with so many tools available online to help get the right people on board.
Worries that bigger companies might have about doing business with smaller companies can also be mitigated by creating case studies and references. Bigger companies are more likely to be more risk-averse than smaller ones, as decisions normally have to be justified to someone else - a senior director or other management. But if a small company can create a case study from an existing customer, it can give the bigger firm more confidence in its brand proposition.
SMEs should also have a good profile which potential customers can access and review. Brian points out that before a company is likely to do business with you, it is probably going to check you out before any deal has been signed. “You need to have an incredible Linkedin profile that is up to date. You need to have your latest accounts led at Companies House, and all the basics need to be in place so you look like an incredible business people can deal with.”
But it’s also crucial to know when to walk away. According to Brian, sometimes a big corporate entity might have a binding supplier agreement in place that they do not have the flexibility to move out of which may make it impossible to do business. But as long as they are focused and have a clear proposition that can solve problems, there is no reason why a bigger firm will not do business with an SME.