Hint: Be different. And then make sure you prove it to us.
Tips from the inside: "We already have a set of good suppliers in place, so if you come in for the first time and don't offer anything different in terms of bringing us value, it is going to be very difficult to get the job," says Ken Carty, vice president and chief procurement officer for Coca-Cola. "That said, Coca-Cola has one of the largest supply chains in the world, so we typically need more than one supplier to do any given thing. For example, I may work with one company that is really on the cutting edge when it comes to innovation, but it may not be the most cost effective. But a supplier doing the same thing might be focused entirely on keeping costs down. Our goal is to build a portfolio of suppliers that will enable us to get the best of all worlds.
"Small businesses also need to get with us earlier; the first time we hear from you should not be at bid time. In the past, our vendors complained that because we are such a massive organization, it was very easy to get lost. So about four years ago, we began to put in place a very formalized process. We're very open about what we're trying to accomplish. Come in, spend the time, do your homework, and you should have a pretty good understanding of what we need."
What not to do: "Some suppliers try to bypass the process a bit. They think that because they know someone here, or they have a friend of a friend, they should get special treatment. That attitude won't get you anywhere at our company -- and it's a hot-button issue with me."
What Coca-Cola is looking for: Packaging materials, ingredients, vending machines and coolers, warehousing services