On Becoming Part of Your Buyers’ Community
Last year, I was invited to attend a supply chain event in San Francisco. The event was on a Thursday from 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. The meeting format encouraged networking and had an education component. Also, there were awards given that celebrated the great work being done by Bay Area sourcing executives.
The evening provided networking opportunities for me to meet potential strategic partners and to meet prospects with a need for our outsourced print management service. It was a very casual and friendly environment in which sourcing leaders talked freely about their problems and 2018 initiatives.
I was interested in how the group was formed, and quickly engaged with multiple board members to get more information. I learned that a supplier launched the group by partnering with some of the top buyers in our area. The procurement executives on the board helped come up with the topics, find speakers and venues, and spread the word to increase attendance.
This supplier is getting access to top buyers without having to sell. They are visible and making themselves known by becoming “one of them.” They are a value-add partner to the procurement community, instead of just another company trying to sell something.
I’m doing the same in the Dallas market. My company has partnered with another supplier to facilitate a quarterly networking event that brings procurement executives together to network and learn. We’ve designed a logo and built an email database of buyers within a 30-mile radius of Dallas.
Our first event will be in March. It will open with networking and then lead into a three-person panel. We want to facilitate making connections and learning. We are also working to build a board of top procurement leaders. It’s important to have the buy-in from non-suppliers to make the group more legitimate.
A New Year: A New Focus
As organizations become more advanced, their role in the overall company is evolving into a more strategic one compared with its tactical past. And a crucial component of this strategic transformation is taking responsibility for mitigating supplier and supply chain risk.
We are not actively selling our outsourced print management service or company. We are facilitating a worthwhile opportunity for buyers and, at the same time, making connections and learning about their needs.
Our first event will not be perfect. We will make mistakes that we will learn from to make our future events better. And we will get lots of visibility to buyers that might need our solutions.
I encourage other procurement professionals to think about putting on events to bring buyers together to get to know each other without having to hard sell.
Can you facilitate a breakfast or lunch and ask a current client to speak on a relevant topic? Can you put on a webinar series with tips your buyers can use to help them do their jobs better? Can you put on an awards happy hour event to honor great achievements within one of the main verticals you sell into?