Buyer Engagement is a term used to describe activities that introduce buyers to suppliers outside the formal tender process. This activity can take the form of individual events or continuous programmes. These include:
Meet the Buyer events, and trade shows seem similar, but have slight differences in their objectives.
Meet the Buyer (MTB) events are buyer led, and come in all sizes. Precision MTB events can be run for just one buyer wishing to connect with potential suppliers for one future project. However, MTB events can also connect multiple buyers and suppliers across a range of different projects.
Meet the Buyer events have multiple benefits to suppliers. You can meet with prospective buyers and get details of future projects, while keeping an eye on the competition.
Trade shows connect multiple buyers and suppliers, as well as industry experts. Some events focus on vertical markets (targeted sectors) while others cover procurement issues across a range of sectors. In addition to networking opportunities, trade shows often provide speeches, discussions, product demonstrations and training seminars, so attending can benefit your business in multiple ways.
Trade shows are usually organised by external events teams, usually supported by government organisations, and sponsored by industry leaders. This mix of stakeholders allows you to not only network with peers and showcase your products but also to meet buyers and see their ‘best practice procurement’ and cutting-edge technology.
Unlike most MTB events, trade shows have the facilities to demonstrate exhibitors’ products and services. If you choose to exhibit at a trade show, the external events teams will help you choose the right way in which to target your audience. All you have to do is make your stand exciting and take advantage of all the opportunities on offer.
Even if you can’t afford to shell out for stand space, attending these types of events are fantastic for networking and assessing your competitors’ activities. You may even consider approaching exhibitors to discuss sub-contracting opportunities.
At any buyer engagement event you should actively talk to potential buyers and ask project-related questions. However, you should not engage with buyers in a way that could be construed as bribery; for instance offering gifts or treats in exchange for preferable treatment.
Likewise you should engage with your peers, but not intimidate them with behaviour that could be seen as threatening.
When attending any meeting style event, you can optimise your business opportunities by bringing business cards, products for demonstrating and company literature.
Research the event
Get floor plan and event schedule
Bring company literature
Discuss future tenders (with buyers)
Discuss mutual challenges (with suppliers)
Shy away from networking
Overlook follow-up conversations
Forget to swap business cards
Leave your stand/post unattended
Industry Accreditation Schemes are programmes run by various groups, such as government authorities, trade bodies or prime contractors. They work by setting goals buyers would like you to meet, and key performance indicators to meet these goals.
It is a good idea to register voluntarily with an Industry Accreditation Scheme, because they provide an unbiased testimony to your company’s skills, a structured way of building your businesses and access to buyer engagement events.
Likewise, business awards can gain your business independent industry recognition and raise your profile. They are usually commercial events, in which you have to pay either to enter or attend the award ceremonies. That said, business awards are judged by high-profile industry experts, giving their accolades clout.
Business awards not only benefit the winners, but attending the award ceremony also encourages all suppliers to network, and share best practice. This also makes them the perfect type of event for you to sponsor. Sponsorship can be a valuable investment in raising your profile as it enables you to share your values and case studies with event attendees, who are often key public sector decision makers.
A less obvious source of buyer engagement is local government meetings (with local authorities being the prospective buyer). While these events do not always divulge key information, they can be a valuable source from which you can find information on future infrastructure projects and procurement spends.
Transparency laws mean that local government meetings must be open to any members of the press and public who want to know about, view or report the work of local government bodies, so you can just turn up if you think the meeting will be relevant to you.
It’s often said that it is not what you know but who you know that helps you win business. This is not strictly true, as EU Competition law requires large contracts within the European Economic Area to go through a formal tender process.
However, humans are visual creatures and businesses are most likely to stick in our minds if we have met someone who represents them. Buyer engagement events and programmes allow suppliers the chance to make a lasting impression on potential employers or partners, which should pay off when these stakeholders are communicating their future opportunities.
We’re about to show you how everything you’ve learned in this guide fits together and, most importantly, how to make the entire procurement process work for you.
In the next chapter we’ll review the full procurement journey from start to finish in one easy infographic!
Discover other ways to engage and build relationships with buyers with Top Tips for Engaging Public Sector Buyers