Veterans Business Resources

a portal for all Veterans and SDV Small Business Owners

Understanding the Checklist; Part 4

How ambitious are you?  How hard do you want to work?  How organized are you?  How are your time management skills?  How disciplined are you?  Why do I ask these questions?  Well, your honest assessment of your own capacity and capabilities will determine the schedule you develop here.  I have found that a schedule/list is necessary when it comes to successfully accomplishing most things, networking is no different.  You must be really good to great in time management, you must be organized and you must be disciplined to effectively do justice to these requirements. 

You have to follow the same schedule/list week after week, month after month.  I will go out on a limb here and say that most of us don’t have an open ended operating budget to cover our Networking efforts and associated expenses.  Even if we did, would unfocused, undisciplined and haphazard spending be the best possible use of that resource?  Understand that to do this properly and effectively, you will spend money.  Your networking efforts are covered in your Marketing Plan that is part of the Business Plan you created way back in Part 1 of this checklist.  I think I said something similar to that earlier.  The Marketing Plan must be kind of important?  Yes, it certainly is. 

Focus your efforts:  I know that you are excited about the possibilities and ready to get in the game, but a word of caution here, you can’t do business with everybody and you can’t do anything.  There is something that you do really well, perhaps even better than anyone else.  If you’re lucky, this might be the business you’re in.  If not, don’t despair, you can learn to be really great in whatever you do.  Part of the trick is to focus.  Don’t make the whole watch, just make the spring for the watch.  Get rich in a niche!  Now that you’ve successfully completed all the earlier tasks in Parts 1, 2 and 3, you have a really good idea who buys what you sell.  I suggest choosing the top 3 to 5 target customers from your list and focus all your efforts on them for a period of time.  I have found that if you do this right, you can’t effectively handle more than 5 target customers at a time.  You are going to be very strategic, very deliberate, very focused in your approach when marketing to and networking with these targeted customers.  The idea is to take the rifle approach as opposed to the shotgun approach. 

Contacting:  When contacting targeted customers, lead with your ability to solve their problems and meet their needs.  Why are you in business?  You are in business to solve your customers problem(s), making money is just a consequence of being really good at what you do.  

SBS, SBLO or SDO:  Get to know these people.  Form professional business relationships with them.  They know and work with the people you ultimately want to meet, know and form professional business relationships with; the end user and the buyer.  

Research and Prepare:  Everyday is Showtime!  Know what you know and know that you know it.  Whatever you don’t know, learn it.  Always, always bring your “A” game.    

Company Marketing Material:  Professionally done marketing materials send the message that you’re a professional and that you’re serious about business.  Perception is reality!  Never leave your marketing material with someone without asking permission to do so.  Why?  It shows respect for the person you’re meeting with and it potentially keeps your material from going into the trash or a file cabinet some place that never gets opened.  

Where to Network:  The idea here is to go where other serious minded business people gather, meet and form business relationships.  Some places to visit include; Chambers of Commerce, Contractor Associations, Professional Industry Groups/Organizations, Trade Shows, Veteran Procurement Conferences etc, etc.  It is your mission to Network with a purpose.  When you are strategic, deliberate and focused in your approach to networking, you will soon determine which events deliver the most bang for your buck.  Once you have this knowledge, you can adjust your schedule/list accordingly.  After going through this process to determine which organization(s) offers the right fit for you, you might want to become a member.  This will represent part of that Networking expense that we spoke about earlier.  Ensure this expense is covered in your Marketing Plan.  

NOTE:  Everybody has a trade show, or so it seems.  You can’t attend every trade show, so you have to do some more research to determine which one(s) is right for you and your business.  Once you have identified the right trade show(s) for you, you have to work it.  When the Exhibit Hall opens, find your targeted customers booths and spend some quality time talking with them.  After you have talked to them, move on.  You should continue to meet other business people and build professional relationships with them.  Seize the moment and control it.  Ask for their business card if you see potential for a future business relationship.  Follow up NLT 48 hours after the show is over.  The timeframe to follow up is determined by the number of business cards you received.  Be smart and use good common sense here.  The objective is to follow up in a timely manner.  They will be pleasantly surprised and you are now successfully marketing yourself to potential future business partners.  

4.  Networking:

Based on your initial research, develop a list of 1 to 3 target customers.  Start with the ones that are most likely to do business with you.  Don’t expect overnight results.  However, as a veteran-owned business, you will certainly have the attention of federal agencies, federal contractors and large businesses.  Most have specific supplier diversity goals for veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. Use this fact to your advantage!

  • When contacting targeted customers, lead with your ability to solve their problems and meet their needs.  Don’t forget to let them know that you are a veteran-owned business. 
  • Start with the small business personnel first; Small Business Specialist (SBS) at federal agencies or the Small Business Liaison Officer (SBLO) or Supplier Diversity Officer (SDO) at public/private companies.  These people can lead you to the appropriate buyer or contracting officer.
  • Be professional and treat them like any other customer.
  • Fully and completely research your targeted customer’s needs.
  • Develop a 1 page capabilities statement.
  • Develop professional-looking company brochures, business cards and a business capabilities presentation.
  • Attend 1 on 1 counseling/matchmaking sessions with your targeted customers.
  • Attend and actively work selected trade shows.  Wear a suit and go prepared with company literature and business cards.  Be prepared to give a quick, professional synopsis of your company and how it can meet your target customer’s needs.
  • Ask for referrals.  If a business doesn’t use what you sell, they may know someone else who does.
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Filed under: Getting Started, Government Contracting, The Checklist

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