Portals: Everyone seems to have one, what do you do with them?

As a diverse business owner, the most dreaded question asked by a supplier diversity (SD) professional may be: “Are you registered in our portal?” Portal registration can be time consuming and sometimes can feel like a black hole you only hear from once a year when your certification is about to expire. The honest truth, portals are not for the benefit of the diverse businesses.  Portals are a primary tool for Supplier Diversity and Procurement professionals. Think of portals in terms of on-line business dating. If you are not listed in the database you can’t be matched.

Some corporations use supplier management solutions such as ConnXus, SupplierGATEWAY, Ariba or STARSSMP.  This actually simplifies the process for diverse businesses. In solutions like these, once your business has a record, the system can often transfer your data automatically. You need only answer a few company specific questions.  Other organizations have a homegrown supplier portal – meaning direct entry of your information. Over and over again.

Just remember: If you are not listed, you cannot be found.

Before you get started on your portal entry journey, collect some of the basic documents requested and save them in single location. That way you’re not jumping directories trying to find things. Start a WORD or Notepad document with answers for a lot of the basic questions, save it in the folder with your attachments, so you can copy and paste into the portal.

Frequently Requested Information: Company Name; Year Founded; Business Structure (Corporation, LLC, etc.); Company Website; Company Headquarters Address; Company Contact (Name, Phone Numbers, Email); Company Description; Keywords; NAICS Codes (UNSPSC or NIGP codes might be requested instead of or in addition to NAICS); # of Employees; Gross Sales (1-3 years’ worth); Owner Details (Names, % owned, diverse status); Service Area (National, Regional, etc.)

Key Words: Many portals will ask for a list of key words that you use to describe the goods or services that you provide. Often you will be limited to 255 or 500 characters, so making a concise list is necessary.  You might want to have a couple of lists based on the items you want to supply to specific markets since terminology may differ across industries.

NAICS Codes: Are a set of codes used to classify the type of work your business performs or product(s) you provide. You can have multiple codes – some portals will even ask you to list your primary and secondary code, and then allow you to list additional codes. If you don’t know what your NACIS code(s) is you can look it up HERE. Find your UNSPSC. Find your NIGP.

Frequently Requested Documentation: Diverse Certificate(s); W-9; Insurance Certificate; Capabilities Statement; Project Showcase (A one-page detailed description of completed project providing project background, your approach, solution to any challenges faced, and results).

A good strategy, if you have more than one division or product/service line, might be to develop several capability statements.  Each could target the specific NAICS codes or industry experience your targeted client and its supplier diversity portal cares about.  For example, while our NAICS codes remain the same, the projects that we undertake can be vastly different depending upon the industry.  Our health insurance clients aren’t necessarily wowed by projects that use sensors to track natural gas through pipelines or schedule maintenance in power plants.  They might find our biometric application for pharmaceutical dispensaries interesting.  State government clients like to read about other state projects.  So, if you can differentiate your past performance into industry-specific or industry-related capability statements, it may help you stand out in the portal.