Most business owners have a dream client in mind. And in many cases, the hero of that dream is a blue-chip, deep-pocketed, major corporation. As it happens, executives at big companies are forever on the lookout for new suppliers that can help their businesses run more smoothly, faster, and more efficiently. Procurement professionals spend trillions of dollars a year purchasing products and services -- many of them from small, entrepreneurial companies. Intuit alone depends on some 3,800 suppliers in an average year.

A win-win, right? First, of course, you have to get a foot in the door. And therein lies a great mystery. Procurement executives are inundated with cold calls and buried by stacks of proposals. How do you make sure your call gets returned or that your response to an RFP actually gets read? To help demystify the procurement process, Inc. went directly to the source. We spoke to supply managers at seven big-name corporations -- who buy packaging, marketing expertise, IT services, and more -- and asked them what life looks like from their side of the desk.

Be different. And then make sure you prove it to us

We can spot a fake from a mile away. (In other words, don't oversell yourself)

Go above and beyond. You would be suprised at how few of your rivals even bother to try.

Companies are buying your reputation, not just your products.

Be as specific as possible when describing what you can do for us.

Start locally, think globally.