People buy from people 

February 1, 2018

… says Naomi Marrow, lead for Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley

With the shift in focus towards digital innovation across most sectors, SMEs are finding themselves facing clients that don’t know what they want or how to get it.

As a result, we have seen a cultural and procedural change in business over the last few years – the traditional RFQ (request for quote) process is no longer fit for purpose when a business is looking for a supplier.

This is because companies are no longer looking for a supplier just to build a one-off system. Instead, companies need suppliers that understand their goals and growth aspirations, so that their approach is complementary and long lasting. Companies want to find suppliers they can trust to have an honest and mutually beneficial relationship, over a longer period of time.

To achieve this, many large organisations are turning to open innovation approaches to find the correct suppliers. Open innovation allows businesses to find a range of suppliers with differing capabilities, without having to be prescriptive about what they require (so they are not dictating what the final product looks like). For SMEs, this means that their personal pitch to a client is becoming increasingly more important than what they can put down on paper.

Even without the open innovation approach, pitching well is critical to the success of an SME. There is no doubt that pitching to a client

has always been important (and daunting); the difference now is that companies are primarily judging SMEs on their unique approach to a problem and the potential for a long-term partnership. Because ‘people buy from people’, SMEs are no longer only assessed on their capabilities and portfolio, but also based on how honest they are as suppliers, what they prioritise and how easy it would be to work together. Due to the complex nature and flexible parameters of most digital projects, clients often need their suppliers to guide them through the process. Suppliers are expected to advise on functionality, whether a client actually needs what they are asking for and whether the timing is right to run a specific project.

It is often difficult for SMEs to know how to get the correct balance during a pitch – how do you demonstrate personality while remaining serious about the project? Most SMEs we work with are passionate about the work they do and therefore would not choose to take on a project they were incapable of seeing through. When running innovation challenges at Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley, we’ve found the best way to approach a pitch is to understand what your company’s unique selling point is. If you can demonstrate this through your pitch, you help potential clients to understand what the experience will be like, should they choose to work with you.

Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley