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How to Find Key Contacts at Target Companies
Inventors will have a far easier time striking a deal with a larger marketer, manufacturer or distributor when they have a strong supporter inside the potential partner company. Inventors benefit when find a supporter early before they make any formal sales calls. The contact can then help fine tune the presentations to the company’s needs. Typically, you want to find either a person in the sales group who will refer you to a Regional Manager or a Marketing Manager as a key contact.
The simplest way to start is through product information requests. When you read trade magazines, you’ll notice that they have extensive new product sections, or in the case of service businesses, new services that companies want to promote or sell. Request information for any product or service that is listed in the new product/service section. You are interested the name of the company contact that will typically come on a letter that will arrive with the literature. You can then call up that contact and tell them you have a product that their company might be interested in and send your information to the contact. You might also ask a contact that is especially helpful if you can contact him or her again in the future.
Another tactic is to join trade associations which are groups of people, including retailers, distributors, marketers, and purchasing agents. Trade associations work for the betterment of companies in the industry. They have volunteer committees of members who do most of the work of the association. You can learn about an industry by joining an association and volunteering to be on committees. Marketing committees can be especially helpful for a new entrepreneur since they typically have volunteers that are in marketing for their own companies. You can find trade associations in Gale’s Book of Associations, which can be found at most large libraries.
Connecting with those Contacts so They Help You
You don’t need to go with your hat in your hand when working on an inside contact, in fact it is a win-win situation for them. If they bring the project to the company and the company successfully introduces the product, the inside contact looks like a real go-getter that is helping the company advance. If the project doesn’t go through, they still look like a go-getter, an image that will help them at some point in their career. The following steps will usually get you an inside contact with a potential partner company.
- Show consumers want your product. You won’t strike your best deal by just showing your invention. Instead, you want to show positive first market research and initial sales success with intriguing possibilities, and then tell partners that your concept seems so strong that you feel it will do best if you partner up with a marketer immediately to exploit the opportunity.
- Start with a salesperson. You can meet salespeople by requesting literature and attending association meetings. You can also attend trade shows and meet sales people just by walking up and talking to them in their booth.
- Have a sales piece showing the initial sales success you have had and some research you’ve done on the larger market. Don’t try to sell the salesperson, just show him or her the sales piece with the observation that you’re trying to decide what would be a good next step to expand sales.
- Ask for his or her input on your idea and what could be done. Take the salesperson’s comments in and be receptive to what he or she has to say. Then ask if this is a product that his or her company might be interested in. The salesperson will comment on how the product could be introduced with his or her company, with suggestions on making the concept “just right” for the target company.
- Arrange to meet regional or marketing managers. If the salesperson is on board, make at least some of the changes he or she suggested and then ask the salesperson if he or she could set up a meeting with the regional manager or marketing manager. Usually they can meet with you, either when the manager comes to town, at a trade show, or you might be able to visit the company’s location.
- Use the contact to help set up the presentation with the company. Once you present your product to the regional or marketing manager, they will be able to set up a key meeting with the right people at their company. Often, if they like your product, they will introduce you and give a little sales pitch about how your product could have a significant impact on the company before you even get started.