When Abator first became WBE certified, circa 1989, our plan was to use this certification to increase sales to state agencies in Illinois. Even though we are a Pennsylvania corporation, we didn’t seek WBE certification here until 1999. In the late 1990’s, certification became a value-add for our civic minded clients who were concerned about meeting diversity spend goals. With that knowledge, we targeted certifications that our clients cared about and picked up another four state WBE certifications and joined WBENC. As we grew our business in various locales, we sought and were awarded certification in another seven states and added the SBA 8(a) certification to pursue federal contracts.
Getting certified was a strategy. Choosing and maintaining specific certifications is the tactic we use to implement our strategy. We use each of our fourteen certifications as specific sales and marketing tools, and they work to our advantage in responding to requests for quotes and proposals.
So now that you have that certification, what’s the first step? Publicize it! Put it on your web site, on your business cards, in your advertising and mention it during your conversations with clients. While the quality of your product or service, pricing and reputation will be the primary concerns of existing and potential customers, your certification is icing on the cake.
What’s in it for them? It helps their organization meet or exceed diversity spending goals. Virtually every B2B (business to business) commercial enterprise and all government agencies have diversity spending goals. We’ve written about these goals before.
Then there’s registration.
Most large corporations have supplier diversity organizations, so reach out to them and find out how to participate in their programs. Many will have web sites tied to databases that will require you to register your company and product/service information, including references and a copy of your certification. Their purchasing staff uses these databases to seek requests for quote based on service or product they’re looking to buy.
Federal agencies generally have OSDBUs (Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization) with specific individuals designated to help you navigate their procurement processes. Their web sites will often have information about future requests for proposals based on the NAICS codes for products and services they expect to purchase during the next fiscal year, along with a history of previously awarded contracts. Awarded contract information can be quite valuable, if you want to mine it for potential subcontracting relationships – we’ll talk more about Tier I, II and III contracting in the near future.
You should consider registering with the resource used by most federal agencies and prime contractors to engage business partners … the Small Business Administration’s Central Contractor Registry. These agencies and companies can use the registry to search for service and product providers based on a wide variety of criteria. In fact, anyone can use the registry to find suppliers.
While holding a diversity certificate does not guarantee the company sales, it is a tool that can be used to open doors to opportunities, increase visibility and build relationships.