The statistics on women-owned business are still overwhelmingly skewed. There are approximately 187 million women entrepreneurs worldwide who own 32-39 percent of all private businesses in the formal economy. But, the startling number is this one: Women-owned businesses earn less than 1 percent of the money spent on vendors by large corporations and governments.
While that can feel daunting to a woman looking to grow her business, the best way to get money into the hands of women business owners is to arm them with the knowledge and connect them to the networks they need to succeed. At WEConnect International, we work to level the playing field through business training and networking opportunities designed to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to design and implement business solutions.
One of the major issues we address in our training for our certified women business owners is the best technique and process for approaching a corporate buyer. Entrepreneurs are often advised to be confident and persistent. But that’s only part of the equation. Confidence must be informed by research and preparation, and persistence is only a virtue when an entrepreneur has a relevant solution.
Before a business owner ever pitches her product or service to a corporate buyer, she should ask herself what specific problem she can solve for the potential buyer. What does the corporation do? What does it need? How is her product or service unique and what is her value-add—cost savings, customization, and excellent after-service care? The answers to these questions will provide the basis of her 60-second pitch to be shared with a potential buyer.
A business owner’s time to shine is during her pitch at a meet-the-member event. If she is confident and demonstrates she’s done her research, she’s likely to engage a buyer and start a broader conversation. This does not mean that she’ll make a deal on the spot, but it’s an opportunity to hear directly from a buyer what they think the necessary ingredients are. The buyer feedback is a very important opportunity to ensure the solution pitched is as relevant as possible. Business is about relationships. If a business owner is persistent at the expense of listening to what a buyer has to say, she may be turning a “no” into a “never.”
Once the initial contact with a buyer is made, it’s time to prioritize and follow up. A business owner must ask herself: is this a good lead? If yes, she must make sure all of her materials are polished and up-to-date before sharing them with the potential buyer and follow up as the buyer requested. It is crucial that she track her progress with the buyer. She can also ask for feedback from the buyer on how to improve her solution to meet the needs of the corporation. By being open to feedback and putting follow-up dates in her calendar with notes, a business owner can ensure she is contacting the buyer in a constructive way that can also improve her pitch for next time.
Women business owners looking to explore the benefits of being certified as a women’s business enterprise by WBENC (in the U.S.) and WEConnect International (outside the U.S.) can visit us at weconnectinternational.org.