5 tips to sell your social enterprise to buyers

26 Feb 2021

For many social enterprises, finding opportunities to create traded income can be a daunting and frustrating task. With limited time to find and chase leads it’s important to have an effective approach. In this blog Charlie Wright, of social enterprise procurement platform Supply Change, shares some best practice to finding and securing sales for your social enterprise.

1. Shout about your impact and quality

You can be more expensive than a competitor and still offer better value. Let them know just how amazing the quality of your product is and don’t underestimate how motivated buyers are by social value. Increasing a buyer’s impact helps them:

  • Reach CSR, social value or sustainability goals
  • Engage with and retain staff
  • Look good in front of socially motivated clients
  • Support the communities they work in

COVID, climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement has exposed many shortcomings in the way both private and public sector organisations do business. There is now a huge incentive to build back better, and social enterprises offer a great solution to that.

2. Learn about your clients and their needs

You want to be in a position to solve their problems or improve their existing spend. You need to answer some questions about them, so do the research, and if you get a meeting make sure you use it to find out more.

  • What do they want?
  • Who have they bought from before?
  • What are their values and the values of their network?
  • What are their impact goals?
  • What causes have they supported?
  • Where are they spending their money? 
  • How do you compare?
  • What else can you bring?

Once you have a full picture of the buyer you can see where you can fit in with their work. Timing is also key, so find out when existing contracts are ending, when they review their spending or when they usually focus on a certain issue.

3. Meet and build relationships

Meeting and building relationships with your client is important. You want to find out more about them and you want them to know more about you. Take them on your journey so they can feel a part of the great impact you have.

Although not so easy at the moment, get yourself to events run by relevant networks and organisations where you know motivated buyers will be. Opportunities like the Social Procurement Festival put you in the ‘room’ (albeit virtually) with people who influence the spend of their organisation.

The Social Procurement Festival

11th March, online

The UK’s first online social procurement festival. This event will gather buyers from both the public & private sector to learn and share best practice for social enterprise procurement, social value activities and to network with social enterprise suppliers and committed buyers.

Register here

4. Give the best service you can but don’t sell yourself short

Smaller businesses can move quickly and be innovative. Buyers love this. Think of ways you can nurture your contract:

  • Stay in touch and check in on how the contract is going
  • Ask if you can improve
  • Send interesting articles and events
  • Offer to mentor staff or present to stakeholders (bring everyone on the journey!) 

But don’t undersell yourself! Always keep in mind that the impact and work you do costs money. The buyer will appreciate this if you do too. If you communicate your quality and value well and you are within the buyer’s budget, there should be no problem in asking for the right price for your goods or services. If you are targeting the right buyers, then they are already motivated to buy from a social enterprise.

5. Make use of platforms that have a ready-made audience for your social enterprise

There are already organisations with an audience that you may want to tap into, including ones that specifically target those interested in buying from social enterprises. Research who they are and work out what you can offer to their audience.  Here are a few examples:

  • Industry membership organisations in your targeted sector
  • Organisations that support a specific type of business
  • Retail and ecommerce platforms already selling to your audience
  • Event organisers with similar audience to you
  • Organisations specifically set up to support social enterprises in getting new contracts

Supply Change helps public and private buyers direct their procurement spending to social enterprises. The platform puts social enterprises in front of motivated buyers and supports both through the contracting process.

This is a guest blog by Charlie Wright, an SSE fellow of the Trade Up programme, and the Supply Change Marketing and Sales Lead.