• Know the organization with which you are meeting
    • Do your homework to determine area(s) on which to focus - Make sure they buy what you sell. Don’t try to force your square peg into a buyer’s round hole
    • Understand how they want and need to do business.
      • Check their website for vendor prerequisites and requirements for various certifications.
    • If they have a supplier registration or supplier marketing portal, submit your company information
    • Subscribe to any bulletins, check their website for RFPs or cother contract needs
    • Meet influencers at Outreach Events (like the CT Supplier Connection Growth Summit MatchMaker)
    • Check their profile on our website – most include commodities and services in which they are interested.
  • Be clear and concise, lead with your unique value proposition.
  • What problem of the buyer do you solve?
  • Create a strong capability statement and if there is an opportunity, share it with the buyer in advance
    • Remember: The capability statement is a snapshot of your company that serves as a resume for your business.

Please see the article below for more tips

The Do's and Don'ts of a Supplier Conference

Published on March 23, 2019

by Eddie Lazzari, Procurement Manager at Coca-Cola Beverages Northeast

through your head is "If I can just get my foot in the door I can show them the value I can bring". Unfortunately, your potential customers need to realize your value before they agree to hire you for your services, or buy your goods.

One way small, hungry, or even scrappy companies look to enter the market is through supplier conferences, or summits. The come in all shapes and sizes and can be called a number of things but the premise of all of them is the same. "Get in front of as many potential customers / clients as I can in the hopes I can score some business".

As one of those potential customers sitting across the table from you, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of hopefuls. Very similar to a speed dating event, this organized chaos is designed to maximize your exposure to as many companies as possible in hopes that one or two of them are in need of what you sell.

Also called "Match-Making Events" the idea here is that a company in need will connect with a company or service that can fill that need. Sounds simple right? Well yes it is simple but it also isn't easy.

Many suppliers struggle to convey their message, show their value, or otherwise prove their worth to the potential company in the short amount of time allotted. If you are a small business diversified or otherwise and are planning on attending one of these events in the future, here are a few things you should know from the perspective of the hiring company sitting across the table from you.

The following is a list of Do's and Don'ts. This is not an all inclusive list but if you can nail these down you will significantly increase your probability of success. This list is also only helpful to you if you are open and willing to be honest with yourself and your approach to these types of events.


1. Be able to present your company in 2 minutes or less:

  • Where are you located?
  • What do you do, or what do you sell?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What makes you different?

2. Understand and communicate your value proposition in:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • Quality
  • What makes you different?

Recognize that it’s impossible to lead your market in all 3 areas. To claim to is foolish and any good procurement professional will see right through it

3. Understand That Any company in the market for what you sell is interested in solving a problem:

  • Understand what problem "the customer" is trying to solve
  • Explain how YOU can solve it
  • WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?

4. Understand that "Transition Costs" are real!

  • Why would or should I switch from my current supplier to you? (“Because I want your business” is not a good answer)
  • How will you help me differ my cost if I were to transition to you?


1. Ramble on about all the other fortune 500 companies you do business with. Don’t get me wrong, it's great that you have an incredible clientele portfolio but we are here to talk about my company and what you can do for me. Social proof is important to a point, but it quickly becomes a wasted opportunity to discuss the things that really matter to me.

2. Talk about your 100 year company history. Again it is fantastic that your company has longevity, but remember your time with me is limited. Only give me the highlights and only the things that are relevant to me.

3. Come unprepared.
Example: I am the Procurement Manager for a Coca-Cola Bottling Company. I have little interest in manufacturing CNC Machines. Not that there is anything wrong with this type of manufacturing equipment but that’s not our core or ancillary business. Know what business your potential customers are in and what you can offer.

4. Assume we know who you are or what you do. Enter into the conversation like this is the first time I’ve heard of you and/or your company.

5. Pound a square peg through a round hole. Understand that no matter how good you, or your company, products and/or services are. Sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. That doesn’t mean that you, your company, products, and/or services are not good… It just might not be a good fit for my company right now.

6. Assume you understand the customer’s procurement needs or strategy. Every company's procurement strategy is different and it's also always changing. What I'm in need of today won't be what I'm in need of 6 months or 5 years from now. Keep in mind that it’s not always about lower price, or cost savings. Cost avoidance, and increased SLA’s are also very attractive.

7. Promise goods or services that are outside your company's core competencies. There is nothing worse than a potential supplier say "Oh... well we can do that!" and when I ask.. "So when have you done that in the past?" the response I get in return is "Well... We've never done it before, but for you we will figure out how!".

8. I know it sounds like you are willing to go above and beyond for me and figure out a way to solve a problem I have, but to be honest I'm not all that interested in being a guinea pig. Stick to what you are confident you can deliver. Honesty and transparency are always the best play here.

Change Your Perspective

Understanding how customers see you, and gaining insight from their perspective will greatly increase your opportunities. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know, or that you can't provide a particular good or service.

Finally - The follow up. Put yourself in my shoes. I've just spent the better part of a day or two meeting with tons of other supplier hopefuls just like you. I have more business cards, tri-folds, folders, line cards, and one pagers than I know what to do with.

Find out the best way to connect with me: Email, Phone Call, LinkedIn, or other. Then, don't forget to follow up within a day or two of the event. It is always helpful if you can include something specific about you, or our conversation that will help jog my memory. Here is a real example of this:

Hello Eddie,
"This is Mary-Ann from Company A, we met at the small business conference earlier this week. I'm the one who almost knocked over your water when I sat down, sorry about that. I just wanted to follow up with you and thank you for your time and discuss next actions..."

As you can see Mary-Ann could have been absolutely devastated over nearly knocking over my water and hoped I wouldn't remember, but she used that moment of being human to her advantage. As soon as she pointed out that she was the one that nearly knocked over my water I instantly recalled her and our entire conversation.

I'm not recommending you go to these conferences, our customer visits and try to almost knock their water over, but try and find a moment in your conversation that sets you apart from all other conversations. This will really help with the recall of our time together.

Hope your next supplier conference is a successful one!

Eddie Lazzari