"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. "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." Be cost efficient. Or be innovative. Just make sure you stand out from the crowd.
"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." One more tip: Don't send your proposals to UPS in a FedEx envelope. That's one of Homeyer's big pet peeves.
"People should think about responding creatively, not only to the requirements in an RFP but also providing other ideas," says Larry Wood, Intuit's director of sourcing. "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 can buy these other components and bundle it for you.' That was amazing. I have to admit that I see very few companies do that."
"In a sense, when I pick one supplier over another, it's like I'm buying its entire facility," says Paula Marshall, CEO of The Bama Companies. "It's not just about your ability to supply a product and ensure the supply; it's also about the facility the product is made in. Is it clean? Does it have a good maintenance program and good food-safety programs in place? In order for me to serve my customers, I have to be confident that I'm buying a safe and reliable product from you."
"When you come face to face with one of our buyers, it's usually a one-chance deal, so it adds some credibility when you've invested some time in researching Valero and learning what role you might play in it," says Hal Adams, vice president for retail merchandising at Valero Energy, a petroleum supplier that operates about 1,000 service-station convenience stores. "In order to do business with us, you need to be aware of our minimum requirements and preliminaries, and you need to be able to do those things. All that information is available on our website."
"Because we're such a large company and we have so many commodity lines, we ask that our suppliers really target their outreach," says Gloria Pualani, director of socioeconomic business programs at the aerospace giant. "If you have a specialty, let it be the prime thing you talk about when you list your capabilities. We appreciate all the other things you can do, but if there is one thing you know you can do better than anyone else, that should be highlighted immediately."
"Changing vendors can be very expensive, so we're always looking for long-term partners," says Ying McGuire, senior manager of global supplier diversity. "When companies first come to present to us, they may be starting off very small, but if they have a long-term global strategy and vision, that typically attracts our attention. We want all of our suppliers to have global capabilities. We always tell people that if they want to compete, they need to support customers regardless of geographic location."