Somehow, we think selling to Buying (Procurement and Sourcing) professionals than selling to “end users” or functional departments. Most of the time we look upon the experience with dread. We do everything we can to avoid or go around them. We try to get the end users to override them. We believe their function is solely to hammer us for price. We’ve been taught to sell solutions, to be consultative, to focus on value creation–but all that goes out the window in dealing with Procurement Professionals.
Talk to Procurement Professionals and they say the same thing. They say, “Sellers don’t address my concerns, they give me the same standard presentations they give to the end users. They don’t understand me or focus on what’s of value to me. They don’t differentiate their solutions, so I can only differentiate between alternatives based on price.”
But then, talk to Procurement Professionals about what they want from sales people. They want sales people to create value, to understand their problems. The concerns of Procurement Professionals are different from those of the end users, they are concerned about supplier stability, the ability to meet their standards over a period of time, the ability to perform. Many are interested in diversity. They are interested in quality, they want to make sure suppliers will be around to support them. They want suppliers that are easy to do business with. If you are selling production parts, they are concerned about supply chain management, vendor managed inventories, and other things. They want fair terms, conditions, and contracts.
And yes, they want the best deal possible–for the things they value.
As sales people, we strive to be consultative and solutions focused. We know that each customer–a VP of Engineering, the CIO, the VP of Development, the CFO has different needs. We know we have to understand those needs and present our solutions in the context of what they value. Procurement professionals are no different. It’s our jobs to understand what their needs are, what they value, how we can help them achieve their goals and produce results. Selling to them is no different.
Aligning ourselves with Buying Professionals can help our sales process. Too often, many of the people we may deal with in the customer don’t know how to buy. Things bog down, they often become paralyzed. Buyers can be our allies in helping manage the customer through their buying process, but first we have to earn their trust, confidence and sponsorship.
Selling to Buying Professionals is no different than selling to anyone else in the customer’s organization. We have to focus on solutions, we have to focus on creating value, we have to understand and solve their problems.
Don’t buy it, listen to the conversation I had with my friend Chris Locke. Chris is a senior buyer in the automotive industry. Every year, he is responsible for hundreds of millions in procurements. Chris’s plea is for great sales people who create value, sell consultatively, understand and solve his problems. Chris and I spent about an hour talking about the way things looked from Behind The Buyer’s Desk. Hear the Professional Buyer’s take on consultative selling in “The Yin and Yang of Buying.”