Rod Robinson is the founder and CEO of ConnXus (connXus.com). His expertise in procurement comes from nearly 20 years of experience as a chief procurement officer for a major telecommunications company and as a management consultant with firms such as AT Kearney, Accenture and Diamond Advisory Services where he was a procurement subject matter expert.
He also worked for Price Waterhouse and Deloitte & Touche, where he earned his CPA credentials. Rod holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the West Virginia University Institute of Technology and earned his MBA at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Dun & Bradstreet fellowship recipient. In 2012, Rod was recognized by Ernst & Young as an Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.
Q. What advice do you have for diverse suppliers who want to stand out from competitors when responding to a bid?
A. When companies put a bid/RFP on the street, the key objective is to get an apples-to-apples comparison across competing suppliers. Key evaluation factors include: Price, quality, service, experience and performance as evidenced by reputation and references from prior customers. At the end of the day, it’s all about TOTAL VALUE!
My advice to diverse suppliers is to first focus on fulfilling the base requirements of the RFP/bid while emphasizing what differentiates you from your competitors. This includes having a solid understanding of the target customers business and objectives. This understanding will enable you to tailor a message that strikes to the heart of what is most important to the customer. Factors that differentiate your business could be specialized industry expertise, processes that enable you to deliver more efficiently, unique intellectual property, etc. Any such factors should be incorporated into the response.
Q. What are the top three things a diverse supplier should know before working with a large corporate buyer?
A. First, is this company a good fit for my business? Not all customers are good customers. Your business model will not be appreciated by all customers. For example: The fact that you are an office supplies company that charges a premium because you provide an extremely high-touch service model will not be valued by a customer that simply views office supplies as a commodity. They simply want to order at the cheapest price possible and expect on-time delivery. The premium service model may be more appreciated by a smaller organization such as a law firm or accounting firm. They will also likely be less price sensitive than a giant corporation.
Second, understand the business and key stakeholders that you will be serving. It is critical to understand how your product or service is helping the company meet its objective and the individual stakeholders responsible for meeting those objectives. They can be critical in keeping you in the game.
Third, be clear about how your product or service fits within the specific company’s supply chain and procurement strategy (Strategic? Tactical?, etc. ) and how it will evolve over time. It is also critical to know how both you and the customer define success in the relationship. Cost? Value? Continuous improvement? Innovation?
Q. What are the top three common mistakes that can prevent a company from being awarded a bid from a corporate buyer?
A. (1) Not specifically responding to what is being asked for in the RFP. (2) Pricing is too high; (3) Solution, product or service not aligned with requirements.
Q. How important is becoming certified as minority-, woman- or veteran-owned to do business with a corporate buyer?
A. Assuming all else is equal (company is a quality, high performer), being a certified minority or woman-owned business can certainly provide a competitive edge. However, doing great work and delivering a great product is most important.
Q. Do you have any advice on how a supplier can develop a good relationship with a large company’s purchasing department?
A. Simple: Take the initiative to get to know the people before there is an opportunity to do business.