Caroline Williams - “It’s the way I tell ‘em”

'It's the way I tell 'em'

It was with sadness that we learnt of the passing of the comedian Frank Carson, but his 'It's the way I tell 'em' catch phrase got me thinking.

It is the way we present ourselves to potential buyers that can determine whether we do business.

However, we need to have the opportunity to meet our preferred buyers face to face. Even within our online world personal contact is still very important to get our message across.

At a North Norfolk Procurement Conference I attended recently, the business delegates were asked to identify the barriers they found dealing with both public sector and larger private sector organisations' procurement processes.

Top of the list was being able to get through to the right person and meet with buyers face to face. The buyers in the room committed to put on their organisations' website their own contact details, including emails for potential suppliers to be able to ask questions and contact them.

The Norfolk Chamber is helping achieve this aim through our Opportunities 2012 event on 15 March at NCFC, where we have brought together 35 key buyers. Pre appointment online booking can be made from a choice of 27 buyers or access to 8 buyers exhibiting.

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Another key request was to use 'plain English', because for most businesses the procurement speak is both confusing and unnecessarily complicated. It was agreed that a simple guide for small and medium businesses was necessary to help them win public sector contracts and public sector organisations will be asked to sign up to a commitment to making dealing with them easier.

A call was made that only questions that pass the 'so what' test be used in any applications. If the information would not be used, then the questions should not be asked. Also the need for experience should only be requested if absolutely necessary, otherwise it makes it impossible for new innovative businesses to get a look in.

It is not only down to the buyers though. As businesses, it is our role to 'have a go' and try for these contracts. If at first you don't succeed, keep trying.

The government has put their contracts on and by registering you are giving yourself a chance to hear what is around and pick what you feel you have an opportunity to win.

Many of our larger Norfolk businesses are eager to increase their local supply chain, but as the suppliers are restricted on resource my message is 'make it easy for them to buy from you'. Find out who the buyer is and what type of products and services they may want to buy.

Find out how to get on their preferred supplier list and do all you can to get on it. Increase your own profile so the buyers can also find you. This can be done through being an expert in your own field and using online and social media tools to get your message out.

It is a challenging market, but buyers are still buying and the more proactive you can be as a supplier the more successful you are likely to be.... after all, it is the way you tell 'em!