Tips from the inside: "In my experience, there are two ways that a small company can differentiate itself," says Larry Wood, Intuit's director of sourcing. "The first is having deep expertise that can give us knowledge about a particular customer segment or a technology. The other thing is flexibility. Several years ago, I did an RFP for a hardware bundle comprising five components. We were interviewing suppliers for each of the components when one of them took a chance and said, 'You don't know anything about this market. Let me step up. I know all these other providers. I can buy these other components and bundle it for you.' That was amazing. They addressed a lot of our needs and took a lot of things that we weren't familiar with off the table. I have to admit that I see very few companies do that. People should think about responding creatively, not only to the requirements in an RFP but also providing other ideas.

"Suppliers should also know that we take a hard look at financial-risk assessments and make sure that the companies that we align with have the wherewithal to weather a financial crisis. At Intuit, we expect even privately held vendors to provide audited copies of their books for us to review. Not everybody does that, but we have a real challenge trusting people who choose not to. If you can be transparent with us, that gives us more confidence and evidence that you will be able to do what we are asking you to do."

What not to do: "It comes down to having a sense of sales professionalism. It bothers me when a supplier comes in and tells us what they want to tell us instead of showing that they understand what our needs are, what our pain points are, and then trying to address them. That is just Sales 101."

What Intuit is looking for: Marketing services, facilities maintenance, product development, call-centerservices, IT services