Technology companies of all sizes are looking to work with diverse suppliers. Intel committed to spending $300 million on diversity initiatives both inside and outside the company.Tweet This With a continuing focus on the under-representation of women and minorities within the tech industry, it’s a fair bet that these programs will continue to get support from the C-suite.

As a minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, or LGBT-owned small business, there are plenty of opportunities available for you to do business in the tech industry. However, before venturing into the world of supplier diversity, you should be sure your company is well-positioned to attract and win business.

Reputation can be a big factor in whether or not a tech company chooses you as a vendor – and reputation can come in many different forms.

Your brand presence, your proposal process, and your track record as a supplier can all be factors in establishing your reputation.

With a stellar reputation, you’re more likely to garner the attention of the exact tech companies you want to work with and help lay the foundation for a successful vendor/client relationship.

Here’s how to help ensure that your reputation speaks volumes about you – and helps win you new business:

What Does Your Brand Say About You?

Your brand is comprised of the visual, written, spoken, and tactile aspects that companies encounter when they connect with your business.

  • Your visual brand includes all aspects of your brand that can be seen. From your business card to your social media presence, the visual qualities of your brand can either attract or deter a new client. Your visual components should be consistent across all platforms and across different mediums. Use the same fonts, logos, and colors on your invoices, social media profiles, website, business card, and other marketing collateral to help create a consistent message.
  • Your written brand includes the words describing your organization that your clients and prospective clients will read. In addition to your website copy, blog posts, and articles, your written brand also includes communications such as proposals, letters, and emails. The tone, use of specific phrases, structure, and underlying messaging of your brand should come through in your writing. Your written brand can help you focus on the benefits and results you create for your clients, which can convey the value of what you offer.
  • Your verbal brand encompasses the spoken word – voicemail, your “elevator pitch,” your networking activities, and even how your phone is answered. Just like other forms of branding, it should be consistent to your overall marketing message and represent your company values.
  • Your tactile brand is all about touch. Products, packaging, direct mail, brochures – even your business cards – are components of your tactile brand. For example, think about Apple and how opening one of their products is an event in itself. The tangible elements you present help your audience touch, feel, and savor your brand, which opens up a new dimension to your brand experience. It can make your diverse business more memorable and build your reputation.

Getting your brand consistent across all of these dimensions will help make you an attractive partner to fast-moving tech companies. You never know when you’ll meet a key contact that can open up the door to a new client, and refining your brand presence in all forms can help you be ready to build relationships and make connections through multiple avenues.

Will Your Proposal Stand Out As Polished and Professional?

The most successful diverse businesses don’t wait for contracts to come to them – they actively create the opportunities they’re looking for.

Consider making your first step the development of a clearly defined target market for your products or services. Who needs what you have to offer and what type of tech company can you serve best?

Make a list of all of the components of your ideal client, and then seek out tech companies that fit that profile.

Select five target companies that are your top priorities for outreach and then visit the supplier diversity website for each. Here you’ll often find the requirements for how to bid on upcoming requests for proposals (RFPs). Read the guidelines provided carefully and follow them to the letter to help create a winning proposal.

Your proposal process should demonstrate your capabilities as a vendor and your professional approach to the work at hand. A winning proposal is specific, clear, and thorough. It addresses every point of the RFP for the given tech company and incorporates elements that communicate your value as a supplier.

Create a checklist or template to use for your proposals so you can thoroughly match the needs of each RFP. Although your template won’t always match the needs of the project you’re bidding on exactly, it can help speed the process and ensure you’re making the right impression.

Award-winning consultant Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting® Proposals – How To Write A Proposal That’s Accepted Every Time” (John Wiley & Sons, 2012), recommends your proposal include the following components:

  • Situation Summary: A restatement of the issues involved.
  • Objectives: The results expected from the project.
  • Measures: The indicators for determining progress and success.
  • Timing: Start, duration, and ending dates.
  • Joint Accountabilities: What the client and you commit to do together.
  • Credentials: A brief citation of why you are the best choice for the project.
  • Methodology: An outline of the steps required.
  • Options: A choice of value options to meet the objectives.
  • Terms and Conditions: Fees and payment terms for each option.
  • Acceptance: Client sign-off opportunity.*

With these elements in a basic template, you can easily adjust your information to meet your prospect’s needs and make the right impression. Providing a customized proposal that still hits all the important considerations to a tech company can help build the foundation for a lucrative new contract and a stellar reputation.

What Does Your Credit Say About You?

Landing a contract for your diverse business is about more than your brand and proposal. Even if your presence and your RFPs are up to snuff, you could miss out on certain opportunities due to your business credit profile.

Your Supplier Evaluation Risk Rating (SER) is a Dun & Bradstreet rating that some tech companies may use internally to help determine where to award contracts. It predicts the likelihood that a company will become inactive or cease business operations over the next 12 months. Using statistical probabilities, the SER scoring system ranks businesses on a scale of 1-9, with 1 indicating low risk.

Understanding your SER score and taking steps to improve it may help make the difference in winning new business from tech companies.

Your diverse business does not need to have big-name clients in order to develop good business credit scores and ratings. You can help build credibility with on-time payments and by making sure that details in your business credit profile are up-to-date. To this end, Dun & Bradstreet offers a suite of business credit tools to help you manage your company’s profile.

It can be critical to lay the groundwork for success by monitoring your business credit profile and working to maintain a credible reputation. Committing to doing business with you can be a significant investment for tech companies. They want to ensure that buying from you is a smart move and that it will be a positive experience. Your SER Rating can be an indicator that you’re a low risk and safe bet as a diverse supplier.

Building a reputation through brand presence, proposal processes, and careful business credit monitoring can position your diverse business to create a mutually beneficial relationship with growing tech companies. It’s not an overnight process, but by laying the foundation now, your company can reap the benefits for years to come.

*Reprinted with permission.

Photo Credit: rebekah, Twenty20