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Social procurement - specifically buying from social and environmental businesses - has become a procurement holy grail as large companies look to strengthen their ESG strategies (environmental, social and governance) and deliver social value on public sector contracts. Recently, NatWest joined Kier, L&Q, Grosvenor and Morgan Sindall Construction in working with Supply Change to connect and work with more social and environmental businesses.
In one of our 'Ask the experts' webinars, Head of Supply Chain Services at NatWest Group, John Hayes and Director of Mediorite, Lucy Ferguson, shared insights on how social and environmental businesses can get more sales with corporate companies. Read the main takeaways below or watch the webinar back to make your own notes.
1. Identify buyers motivated by social and environmental business
Corporates with a strategic objective to work with social suppliers are obviously going to be an easier sell than those who aren’t taking that approach.
Look into the details of a company’s strategy to see if you would be a good fit. For example, NatWest has set out its aims for working with suppliers, and has a new supplier charter, which can help prospective suppliers tell if their missions overlap.
2. Use events and intermediaries to connect
Intermediaries and events are useful for making connections. Engaging through companies like Supply Change and MSDUK gives corporations a narrow entryway into a group of suppliers rather than them having to cast a wide net out.
Look at what events buyers are attending like the Social Procurement Festival. There are all kinds of events where you can find people to start to build a relationship. This tends to be more successful than cold-calling or emailing.
3. Offer solutions to their problems
Find out what problems the companies are trying to solve and how are you best placed to solve it. If their priorities are around environmental issues or impact locally to their HQ, tailor your message and mirror what they want.
A company's challenge can provide an opportunity, Hayes pointed out, especially if you find out more about the wider context. For example, legislation requiring large corporates to report on the sustainability of supply chains means they may look to environmentally-focused suppliers.
Supply Change supports social and environmental businesses to access motivated buyers and more traded income.
4. Engage stakeholders at different levels
Talk to people at every level, rather than just the leadership. Create a long-term relationship by looking at who your stakeholders are across the company rather than just go straight for senior figures. If you’re not getting anywhere, assess who to go to next.
Once you have your foot in the door you need to build on that, Ferguson pointed out. If you meet someone at an event then you’ve then got an ally within that company. They can help you figure out how to spread the word within that company. You then have to get to the individual buyers at the company to help them understand why there’s an advantage to buying from you.
5. Be prepared to invest resources
Corporates can have robust requirements of new suppliers. But investing in meeting these requirements can lead to more opportunities. It might take months and a lot of money to get through a big client’s security compliance, but then it is easier for everyone across that company to buy from us and you are set up to work with more companies with that requirement.
Getting organised can make the procurement process smoother. Information like accounts is always useful for the buyer to fast-track the supplier through due diligence. It’s useful for the buyer if that information is already prepared.
6. Learn from each other to help each other
Listen and learn to improve. Ask what else you can do and then show that you are taking that information on board. If you can listen to the advice you get and respond quickly then that is a really useful way to build a relationship.
Provide constructive feedback. Buyers want to create a more diverse supply chain but they don’t always have the answers. Help them understand what they can do differently.
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