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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've seen several questions about getting your foot in the door at a large corporation, and I thought it might be helpful to understand how corporations are structured, so you can better understand how to get your name in the right places.

Most government and mid- to large-sized corporations follow a fairly standardized organizational model, with only very minor variations. Here's the process:

A department within the corporation identifies a need they have, and develops specifications to describe what is needed. This information is sent to the purchasing department in a form typically called a Purchase Order Request or a Goods and Services Request.

The Purchasing department may have a list of qualified vendors that the department that originated the PO Request must select from. If the anticipated expense is above a certain threshold, the Purchasing department may take over and ask for bids.

If the Purchasing department is seeking bids, there are a few different ways that can be handled. A Request for Proposal is issued when a corporation knows there is an unfilled need, but doesn't know how to fill it exactly. The RFP states the goals to be met, and seeks input on how your company proposes to fill that need.

A Request for Quote is issued when the Purchasing department knows the specific product they're interested in, and this is where most apparel purchases are likely to fall.

There's also an Invitation to Bid which differs from a Request for Quote in that it is usually less structured than a Request for Quote. An RFQ is very specific- it equates to "Give me your price on x number of x color x size shirts." An ITB is more of a request for a price list, in that they say, "We invite you to bid on our screen printing for the year."

Once the RFP, RFQ or ITB is issued, responses are accepted until a certain date, at which point the Purchasing department reviews the responses, with or without input from the originating department, and determines which response is most beneficial to the corporation. That's important, because often it isn't which price is lowest - it's which respondent offers the best solution to the company. This is where additional services you can provide may set you apart from the competition.

Once the decision is made, a Purchase Order is issued to the supplier. The PO number should appear on every single thing related to the order that you send the corporation from now on. Above all, put it on the invoice. Note that the PO may have terms and conditions on it that you are accepting by deciding to provide the materials - read carefully! This can be anything from payment schedules to packaging and delivery details.

After you deliver the product, some corporations have a claim voucher that must be submitted by the receiving department, along with your invoice. The claim voucher notifies the Purchasing department that the goods received were satisfactory. The Purchasing department will review the invoice, compare it to the specifications in the Purchase Order, and submit the invoice to the Accounting department, who will issue payment.

It may take 30 days to get paid, even from reputable companies. This is why some suppliers offer net discounts for fast payment. For example, if you offer a 2% discount for payment within 30 days, but expect payment in full within 30 days, you'd specify in the "Terms" portion of the bid and invoice "2/10 Net 30." This means, 2% discount if paid in 10 days, payment due in 30 days. If you haven't agreed to terms in advance though - like on the bid - don't expect the corporation to meet terms you just told them about.

Once payment is received, it's nice to follow up with the department who originated the order. Inform them that you've received payment, thank them for that, and ask if they had any concerns. When they say no, say great, and tell them you're sending them some marketing materials that you hope they will pass on to other departments they work with who might need your service. I also send donuts or a bag of gourmet coffee or something. This makes them remember you. Often, they can't accept gifts personally, but if you address it to the department, it should be okay.

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Knowing all that now, here's some specific steps you an take to win corporate work:

1. Ask how you can be put on the qualified bidders list.
2. Ask if there are any online resources you can use to look for RFP/ITB/RFQ from the corporation.
3. Market to mid-level managers in specific departments: Marketing/Promotions, Human Resources, Public Relations, and any other department that might use your products.
4. Be persistent. You won't get in overnight. Every month or two, touch base with the people in step 3 and let them know you're still around. Don't try to sell them every time, but also don't take up a lot of their time. You want them to remember you without annoying them. Sales, promos, etc. are a good excuse to make contact.

Hope this gives you some ideas!
 

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While some may do this, all of the big places we have sold to was an inside connection. Just like everything else. And we get a deposit up front and payment in full on delivery.
 

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In my regular day job I work for a federal agency. It works in much this way at my job. Knowing someone here isn't much of an "in" as would be in the corporate world. There's a whole process that MUST happen and a paper trail for that process must exist.

My wife works in the marketing dept of a VERY large corporation, and she says it also works much the way Mike described.

In some medium-sized companies/corporations where local offices have more control, it's probably more likely that having an inside connection would be beneficial.
 

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I am talking Fortune 500 companies. The ones we sell to have local operations that have discretion to purchase local even if they have some big corporate process.

I can say the same is true for some companies I have worked for in the past including two national banks and one of the largest hotel chains in the world.

It just depends on the company

As far as government agencies, the ones around here their inside people. It has been all over the news here
 

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I am talking Fortune 500 companies. The ones we sell to have local operations that have discretion to purchase local even if they have some big corporate process.

I can say the same is true for some companies I have worked for in the past including two national banks and one of the largest hotel chains in the world.

It just depends on the company

As far as government agencies, the ones around here their inside people. It has been all over the news here
Yeah, it just depends on the company, I guess. My wife has worked for 3 of the corporations in the top 50 of Fortune 500, and they all do it that way.:)

And the reason you talk about the government agencies being in the news is because it's supposed to work the way I said, and when it doesn't...it get's in the news. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Note that I titled this "LARGE" Corporations.

I'm not discounting the influence of knowing someone - it's the most powerful sales tool there is! However, if you don't have someone on the inside, it helps to know who to build a relationship with.

I was purchasing manager for a large organization for several years, and I was aggressive about getting the best price. Who I knew was secondary to their price and service because I had objectives to meet and too much work to do to micromanage my vendor relationships. With the stroke of a pen, I walked away from contracts with vendors who made me look bad. In corporate America, performance counts - a lot.

However, having a relationship with someone in the positions I mentioned in #3 above may well open an opportunity that would have been closed to you otherwise. One example is when the current vendor is doing OK, and there's no compelling reason to change. Someone who you've built a relationship with might influence the purchasing department to issue an ITB rather than just renew an expiring contract.

So, I agree completely that it is important to know someone on the inside - but, I wrote the above in hopes of helping people understand WHO to try to get to know, and some of the other things to expect when dealing with large corporations or Government.
 
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