Monday, April 21, 2008

New Entrepreneurs: What are your prospects thinking?

If only you could read a prospect's mind so that you would know what they really think about working with a fledgling company such as yours. Are they worth your trouble to pursue? Sure. Even the biggest companies like to work with the smallest vendors if the fit is a good one.

Did you ever work at a fast-food restaurant? If you stayed with it for a year before getting tired of sandblasting french fry grease off your clothes at the end of every shift, then you’re a rare breed. Recruiting and retaining good workers is a chronic challenge for restaurant chains. One such company with billions in revenue and tens of thousands of restaurants around the world (think tacos, pizza and fried chicken chains) sought help in finding and keeping employees for its outlets. This restaurant behemoth considered proposals from all sorts of companies, including some relatively large advertising agencies. The company also listened to pitches from firms with experience expressly in employee recruitment. But one tiny advertising agency with no such experience went after the business, too. In this case, size didn't matter.

Even a large corporation can be treated poorly--taken for granted--by its vendors. That possibility was on the mind of the company's global talent manager when she was seeking a good fit for the recruitment program. "I didn’t want someone who had so much experience in our area that they were offering a cut and paste solution," she says. "I wanted someone who could think creatively. Choosing a smaller company meant I wasn’t going to be just a number."

The small agency’s presentation showed they had taken time to think about what their prospect needed. (Don’t forget: The prospect is buying you and much as she’s choosing your company.) “The small agency showed their personalities throughout the proposal process. It let us get to know who they really were,” the talent manager says. “They took pains to understand us and how we worked. They kept doing that throughout the relationship, even after they were chosen.”

Final score
Small company: 1
Big companies: Better luck next time

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