Editor’s Note: This #WBEWisdom post is part of a series from members of the Host Committee for the 2019 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, coming up June 25 - 27 in Baltimore, Maryland. Read more about the Host Committee.
By Bev Gray, President & CEO of Exhibit Edge, Inc.
As a WBENC certified company for close to 15 years, I have participated in many MatchMaker meetings. As with any business connection, some have led to contracts; others have not. In any case, I use every MatchMaker opportunity to enhance how I introduce my company by being more prepared, knowledgeable about their company, being my true self and listening to them to alter what I say about my company to make them feel more comfortable about starting a relationship.
Over the years, I have devised a check list that I look over several weeks before the meeting. I have found that if I don’t have a list, I will forget to bring or share something important. Going into the meeting organized makes me feel confident!
Filling out your profile
Include strategic keywords for what your company does and the industry.
Check your competitors’ keywords on WBENCLink2.0. They will be looking at other similar companies.
Make your company stand out from others in your industry. Give details of success.
Fill out all the questions. Your company will be perceived as detailed oriented.
Make use of all the allowed space. Put your text in MS Word to count the words or characters.
Print out or save your profile in a document so you have it next time for easy entry.
Who are the right corporations to target?
Verify the corporation buys your product and/or service.
Is their budget for your product and/or service area increasing or decreasing?
Who is the current provider(s)? Are they pleased with them? What issues do they have? Are they looking for something different?
Do Your Homework to Make the Meeting Personal and Relevant
Get in their supplier database! They will ask you, so it’s better to do it before the meeting.
Find an insider or another vendor they utilize to learn more about the company and what it’s like to work with them.
Are they in our database of prospects?
Find two recent news postings or updates on their website about the company.
Find information about the Supplier Diversity Department. What are their goals?
What is trending in the company’s industry and with them?
Look at their social media pages to learn more about them. Companies are typically more casual.
What is their stock price? (Just so you know!)
Customize your presentation to include some of this information about them.
Practice your presentation. Be sure to leave time for side conversations, their questions and comments.
Before the Meeting
Begin to build a relationship.
See if you can find out who you are meeting. Any questions for you to ask before?
Look for the representative on social media, especially LinkedIn. Do not connect with them yet though. Look at their advertisements to get a feel for who they say they are.
Come to the meeting early, so you know you will not be late.
Know details about your own company. (See below for information to share.)
Make note cards with your key company information and questions. You don’t want to miss anything.
BRING: Business cards, company summary flyers, capability report (or promise to send one), and other relevant materials for your business. (Be prepared to also send it to them digitally.)
During the Matchmaker Meeting
Use this section to create note cards for practice and to help guide you through your meeting.
Continue to build the relationship.
Remember that meeting is mostly about them and to solve a problem and save money.
Keep your energy up!
Be sure to shake their hands, pleasantly firmly, and say your name, position and company.
Find a commonality, a connection to talk about when you first get there. Watch your time though!
Share information about you and your company:
Describe your position, number of years with company and Industry.
What your company does. Share your value proposition.
Share your differentiators. What makes you unique and better.
Share awards and other recognition in the last 3 years
Mention other clients in the same industry as them.
Take notes as you talk with them, so you retain all the details.
Ask why you were selected for the MatchMaker meeting.
Continue to listen to them, so you take their lead on where the conversation should lead.
Be sure to add in a bit of information you found out about them.
What are some upcoming opportunities?
Ask if they want to take the company information you brought with you. (If they want you to send it electronically, that is a great reason to follow up with them again.)
Can they provide the contact information for the department relevant to your business?
Be sure you received all of their contact information.
Ask how they prefer to be contacted: phone (desk or mobile) or email.
Ask, “What is the next step?”
Make sure they leave the meeting with one memorable point about your company, such as what differentiates your products or services, or a story that connects their corporation to your company.
Thank them for their time.
Leave the meeting with a plan of action.
After the Meeting
Immediately, look at your notes and add to them while thoughts are still fresh.
Again, continue to build the relationship.
Send a thank you card. This will make you stand out.
Be sure to send any promised information within 5-6 business days.
Connect with them on LinkedIn.
Contact them within 1½ to 2 weeks, then try again in 2 weeks, and then try again in 4 weeks.
Have a reason to contact them later: You may have news or an idea to share.
End your email or message with a question. Hopefully, they will be compelled to answer it.
Again, ask what the next step is.
Be sure to stay organized, so you won’t forget about them. Use a database, a binder, calendar reminder, etc. Always be polite.
Starting and building the relationship is most important.
Continuing the relationship with the correct person is important so when they have a need or hear of a need, they will remember you. The Supplier Diversity professional may not be the right person. Let them help you get to the right individual.
You must be consistent and patient. Seek them out at all future events so you become extremely familiar to them.
If they totally ignore your requests, it may not be the right time. Just be patient.
If they help you win a contract, be sure to ask them if you can share your success story!
Bev Gray is a member of the Host Committee for the 2019 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, one of WBENC’s signature events featuring innovative educational programming, inspiring keynotes, 1:1 MatchMaker sessions, networking opportunities, and an unrivaled Business Fair.
Bev Gray leads Exhibit Edge Inc., a company that designs, produces, and manages trade show exhibits. Formed in 1992 at the request of her first client, the Federal Aviation Administration, Exhibit Edge has worked in all industries with over 10,000 jobs serviced for 27 years. Currently her role includes managing company vision, business development, procedures and systems, and finances. Awards include exhibit design awards, INC’s 5000 Fastest Growing Private Company, Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise, SmartCEO Brava, WPEO-DC Star, and WBENC Star. For fun, Bev enjoys traveling, events with family and friends, home decorating, organizing, and reading.
Exhibit Edge designs, builds, and manages trade show exhibits and experiential marketing systems that increase sales leads and company visibility. They combine marketing experience and artistry to accurately deliver your brand and message to engage, educate, and inspire. Their goal is to create an attendee experience that leads to clients’ desired results. They accomplish this thanks to talented, in-house industry experts in high technology displays and graphic elements. This combination has positioned Exhibit Edge as a premier exhibit company.