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.
It’s a great benefit to inventors when they find a supporter early, before making any formal sales calls. The contact can then help fine-tune the presentation(s) to the company’s needs. Typically, it’s best 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’ll want the name of the company contact, which will typically come on a letter that arrives with the literature.
You can then call that contact and say you have a product that may interest his or her company and send your information to the contact.
Another strategy is to join trade associations, which are groups that include 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 volunteer to be on committees. Marketing committees can be especially helpful for a new entrepreneur because they typically have volunteers who are in marketing for their own companies.
You can find trade associations in Gale Directory Library, which can be found at most large libraries.
Connecting with contacts
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 that person because it can make him or her look like a go-getter trying the help the company advance. These steps will usually get you an inside contact with a potential partner company:
Show that consumers want your product. You should show positive first-market research and initial sales success with intriguing possibilities, then tell partners that your concept seems so strong that you feel it will do best if you partner with a marketer immediately.
Start with a salesperson. You can meet salespeople by requesting literature and attending association meetings. You can also attend trade shows and meet salespeople there.
Have a sales piece ready. It should show your initial sales success 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 the salesperson’s input. Be receptive. Then ask if this is a product that may be of interest to his or her company. 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 whether he or she could set up a meeting with the regional manager or marketing manager.
Use the contact to get a presentation. Once you present your product to the company’s regional or marketing manager, he or she will be able to set up a key meeting with the right people at the company.