In this Q&A, Ray Makela, Chief Customer Officer at Sales Readiness Group, shares five recommendations to get synergy when selling to procurement and prevent your opportunity from getting stuck in the procurement process.
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Well, thank you for that question. It's an interesting one because it highlights some different things that are involved in a negotiation and working with procurement; which is an area that we've studied from a sales and sales management perspective.
I'm going to outline some ideas that you can consider when selling to procurement to speed along that process.
The first step is to understand the rules under which procurement is playing. So think of them as a partner or another stakeholder in the opportunity, as opposed to an adversary. Let's see if you can meet with them and figure out what their timelines and steps are.
Frequently, large organizations publish their procurement policies and map out how they engage with partners and the steps to become an approved vendor or get a project approved. So understand what those steps are and make sure you have a real appreciation for what you need to do to become accepted as a vendor and to get that project moving forward.
The second step goes to the business need, and this speaks to how bad do the buyers need this problem to be solved, how big is it, how significant, what's the impact on the organization, and when do they need the problem solved? So, if there is a delay in the project or it gets stuck in procurement, knowing if there is urgency and a compelling need can help you resume the process.
For example, you could say "Well, you know, the stakeholders stated that they want to implement this by the beginning of the quarter, so we need to keep this moving forward." Maybe you can even get some support from your business sponsors to keep that moving.
If there isn't a compelling need or a timeline, I think that should be a red flag that this isn't going to move forward as quickly as you thought or maybe the prospect is just kicking the tires.
The third step speaks to the authority, the involvement of stakeholders. In other words, who needs to be involved in making this decision and how is your solution aligned with them? Because often, opportunities go into procurement, they get stuck, you're not sure what's happening, and then you find out that you still haven't spoken with a whole steering committee or stakeholder group. And if you have those mystery decision makers or people that you have not yet had an opportunity to present to—that means you haven't had the chance to sell and show the value of your solution.
So map the organization, understand who's involved, and in the decision-making process know who's going to weigh in and who gets to vote. Also, if you have coaches involved, they can help you with answering some of those questions and keep things moving forward.
The final step is to outline the actions and dates that are necessary. If you understand the procurement process and the steps that are needed, you should have a work plan with activities and actions that you and the client need to take to get that agreement finalized.
When the procurement process is fuzzy or left open for interpretation, that's when we get frustrated because things aren't moving quickly enough. But a lot of organizations specify exactly what needs to happen and what the commitments are from both parties to keep that opportunity moving forward. By that way, you can avoid surprises, take control of that opportunity, and move it forward. Sometimes even influencing those dates and the decision making to get it done by a particular time.
The final piece I'll leave you with about how to keep that opportunity from dying or getting stuck in procurement is—you just need to be tenacious in your follow-up. Be the first one responding, answering questions, and turning around agreements. Be the first in line at every opportunity, and you'll be in a better position to go back and say, "Hey, where are we with this? What else can we do to keep this moving forward?"
The last thing you want is for the client to be waiting for you to respond, and then somebody else gets in there and either closes the deal or distracts them from looking at your opportunity or your proposal. In conclusion, outline the process from proposal through closing. What needs to happen, what's the timeline, what are the key steps, what can you do; and more importantly, what are you expecting the customer to do? Once you have those agreements, you're in a better position to take control of that deal and get it closed on time.
SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.
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About Ray Makela