Once upon a time, I helped run a mid-sized family business…
We had (and they still have) thousands of business and nonprofit customers throughout Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA to everyone local to the area).
One of the key things that we did, and most customers did as well, was choose vendors in large part based on the level of employee that walked through our door. The closer they were to being the boss, the more likely we were to choose them as our vendor – all else being relatively equal or close enough on the issues that mattered to us.
There are 3 key reasons why this matters, and a 4th reason especially for nonprofits…
1st: This shows how much they care
The CEO of a company is tasked with – among other things – talking to the company’s most strategically important clients. If the CEO walks through your door, that company has decided that you are one of those clients. Further, the presence of a CEO or other executive means you are strategically important to that vendor’s success.
Why does this matter? Because to that vendor, you are far more important than just revenue. Their success is tied to your success in a far stronger way than profit alone. This will be hugely valuable to your nonprofit in many obvious (and some not so obvious) ways.
2nd: Higher-level employees tend to be company experts
If you’re dealing with a lower level employee, you’re likely to be hearing their advice a few steps diluted from the source. The executives in an organization are almost always experts in the field and are usually skilled at sharing that expertise.
3rd: Higher level employees also have higher-level connections
The better the relationship you build with them, the more you have access to their network. These connections (within and without your field) could provide value to your organization and your own executives.
4th: An element that matters even more for nonprofits
It matters because you are talking to the very people that could give back to your organization! Sponsorships, donations – even employee volunteers – require no further negotiation up the chain of command. If you get these executives passionate about your organization, they are far more likely to help in multiple ways, including potentially becoming donors themselves.
When in doubt, pick the vendors that have picked you as more than just a sales target!