Hint: Know your limits, be realistic, and don't oversell yourself.
Tips from the inside: "A big problem we see is that companies are not realistic with their RFPs. And that ends up being the reason why they don't get the business," says Kathy Homeyer, director of supplier diversity for UPS. "Let's say the cost they quoted was too low. Our managers are experts; they know when a price is too good to be true. We also avoid businesses that say that their only goal is to land the one big contract from UPS. What if our business strategy changes? The last thing we want is for a company to fail because it was our biggest supplier. Your job is not to sit there and be happy that you got a deal with UPS. Your job is to continue to build your business.
"Companies also need to build relationships; it's a huge competitive edge. A lot of large corporations offer mentoring programs, which many entrepreneurs don't realize are available. At UPS, we do outreach programs and external mentoring. We go to a lot of workshops, expos, and networking events. When a manager here comes to me and says certain commodities are going to be put up for bid in the coming months, I go through my files of people I have run across over the course of the past couple of years. We'll also reach out to the other large corporations, like Time Warner, and ask, 'Who are you guys using? Do you have someone that we don't know?' It's almost a small family."
What not to do: "The biggest no-no is not knowing our competition. People will say, 'I've got this really exciting proposal I want you to look at.' I'll say, 'Go ahead; send it to me.' Then they send it to me by FedEx. It happens every day. Just be smart. Know the company you are pitching to and know their likes and dislikes. You get such brownie points with me when you come in with a UPS envelope and have an account all set up. It's just the little things like that, the icing on the cake."
What UPS is looking for: Cardboard boxes, printing services, facilities maintenance, security services, promotional-item suppliers