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Good Opportunity for a Lasting Impression or Last Opportunity for a Good Impression?

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Sunday, March 20, 2011
Good Opportunity for a Lasting Impression or Last Opportunity for a Good Impression?

Which one applies to you often depends on how vested you are in learning about your prospects, their interests and needs, being efficient and on-point.

Riddle me this Batman: Why did the prospective customer cross the road? To get away from the meaningless elevator pitch of a salesperson who knew nothing about their needs.

Sound a little harsh? Maybe so, but no more harsh than the sound of the door of opportunity slamming shut on you, figuratively and literally. By investing in a little elbow grease, this traumatic experience can often be avoided or at least minimized.

Okay, no more riddles, let's get down to business.

The other day I saw an experienced executive of an experienced small business being introduced to someone from a large company, one they have wanted to connect with for sometime.What came next was a horrifying example of what not to do when presented with this type of opportunity. The small company executive proceeded to deliver a five minute pitch about his company starting with (and lingering on) their socioeconomic designations, briefly noting the civilian agencies they support and hope to support, and ending with, "so what opportunities do you have that we can help you with?" Here are the issues. The work done by the small company had absolutely no relevance to the type of work done by the large company. This was expressed during the conversation by the large company rep. The small business was focused on civilian agencies and the large company was a bona fide defense contractor with no work at a civilian agency. This was also cited during the conversation. In fact, the large company rep, who had also worked at other mid-tier and large companies, offered to make introductions to counterparts at organizations who better matched what the small company executive was seeking.

It was painful to see and hear, but unfortunately it is not a rare occurence. In fact, it happens so often that I hear about it from other small companies, folks in government, and representatives of mid-tier and large companies who are often seeking out viable small business partners. There have been countless articles written about meetings where rep's from small, medium and large companies come in unprepared and offer up a canned "death by PowerPoint" which has little if any relevance to the needs of the prospect.

For years, I and many others have been saying "Do your homework!"

The amount of market information available today, literally at your fingertips, is amazing and overwhelming. When I first got involved in government contracting, FedBizOpps was delivered by snail mail and facsimile (who remembers CBD?). To express your interest in doing business with a particular agency or one of its activities, you filled out an SF129 (Standard Form 129 - Solicitation Mailing List) since CCR did not yet exist. Although the Federal Procurement Data System launched in 1979, not too many could tap it since access to the Internet only began in the early eighties and public access to FPDS sometime after that. In the last fifteen years, various free and fee-based resources have come available, making volumes and volumes of potentially useful information easily accessible.

With that said, it also helps if you know what you are supposed to be looking for and that is something company leadership should impart either directly or by inference. Too many people with a business development title are running through the streets with nary a clue as to what direction they should be going. Why? No one told them or their leadership simply said "go get business!" So, what are you looking for? What agency? What organization in the agency? What initiatives or current programs? Who are the people attached to the program from Government? Industry? If you can't answer some or all of these questions, you best keep yourself away from prospective customers and teaming partners.

Why you ask?

How would you feel if someone cold-called you to ask for your business but did not care enough about you or the quality of their work to educate themselves as to how you currently manage a process, resolved a business operations issue or found out what is important to you in a service contract, etc?

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