What small businesses need to know when approaching large corporate clients

I asked my friend Andrea Quaye VP Ab-Inbev to answer some burning questions that small businesses have about how to do business with Large corporates and found the advice quite valuable.

1.  What advice can you give someone who is a small business owner looking to get into doing business with you?

Come prepared. I would advise the small business owner to do their research on our company and on our brands.

Have a point of view. Have a clear point of view and proposal on what you are offering.

Be differentiated. Offer a service/ product that your competitors don’t offer.

Be professional.  Be on time for meetings. Treat each interaction as a pitch. Put your best foot forward. Bring the team that will be working on our business.

Understand what keeps the client awake at night.

2.What steps should small businesses take in order to submit their proposals to the right people? 

If you are pitching an idea to a brand – find out who the Brand manager is or the person who is in charge of the brand or accountable for the project.

Find out who the procurement person for the department you want to engage with.

3.What do you think makes a good/great proposal?

Understand your audience. Research who you will be presenting to.

It must be differentiated.  It must offer something new.

A clear articulation of the problem  that the business and brand is facing &  how your agency or company will provide the solution.

Have a short and sharp presentation and be concise.  And be prepared to have the answers to any detailed question.

Be clear and transparent on your costings. Don’t over charge and don’t under charge.

4. Costing is always a tough challenge. What do you want to see when someone is proposing costs for a project?

I want it to be transparent. Mark ups should always be on the page.

If you need to budget for a contingency, do so transparently. Don’t build fat into items.

5. Other than government mandates, do you really think there is value in working with small businesses?

Yes, small businesses offer unique insights and approaches to solving business problems.

They tend to be agile, and that is an important capability in today’s environment

6. How do you think big corporates can help small businesses, especially in your field of expertise?

By giving them opportunities and letting them cut their teeth on specific projects.

By coaching them on opportunities.

Giving them opportunities to pitch for work.

7. When it comes to marketing, what tools do you think small businesses are lacking to get their products to the fore?

Consumers are global, and they have access to global trends and ideas. My challenge to them would be to get more inspiration from what’s happening across our borders, and then localize the ideas.

At times, small businesses try and by mini versions of big businesses. I would encourage them to create their own model and use their competitive advantage. Agility.

8. How should a small business position themselves in their field, to get business?

Social media is a great tool. Learn how to use it.

Have a portfolio of work that you can share. It’s easier to take a chance on a small business if they can show they have done similar type of work, even if at a smaller scale.

Africa has such beautiful and unique stories to tell. Do so in an engaging and differentiated way. You will be noticed.

As the owner/ founder of a small business, expect to be the face of your business and live by your values & ideals.

9. Are there organisations that assist small businesses in creating proposals etc.?

Yes, at SAB we back entrepreneurs with small businesses.  Check our various programs out.


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