Despite what many of your sellers may believe, procurement is not where good sales deals go to die. A shift in your team’s mindset about when and how to communicate with professional buyers can increase opportunities and create great deals. As a sales leader, your negotiation strategy should help your sellers communicate the value of your offering and mitigate risk for the buyer.
These six truths can help your sellers demystify the professional buyer and understand how to successfully work with procurement to negotiate winning deals:
Professional Buyers Care About More Than Lowering the Price
This is perhaps the biggest myth and misperception most sales people hold true about professional buyers; and they victimize themselves by accepting it as fact. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, price negotiations do represent one of the more visible ways that Professional Buyers get measured. It’s easy to believe that price is their only interest, but in reality, there are many other interests that supersede their focus on lowering price.
Professional Buyers Don’t Make the Final Decision
Professional Buyers rarely own the business issue or problem related to the products and services you are selling. They are buying on behalf of the people and functions in their organization who do own that business problem. In other words, they all have internal customers they are trying to satisfy. Despite the independence and power they may project, the reality is that their job is to buy what the business issue owner wants them to buy. While they do have corporate standards to enforce, the last thing they want to do is disappoint their internal customers, especially members of senior management focused on achieving strategic objectives.
Professional Buyers Have Challenging Performance Metrics
Professional Buyers often struggle with a tough internal dilemma when they perceive that satisfying the needs of their internal customers puts them at odds with achieving their own performance metrics. They frequently have personal performance targets related to cost reduction, diversifying spend, minimizing commitment and enforcing terms and conditions.
Unfortunately, if they’re disconnected from early sales conversations about your company’s capabilities and differentiators, professional buyers may prioritize their own interests over those of the business issue owner. It’s equally problematic when sellers de-prioritize (or ignore) the professional buyer's performance metrics. The bottom line is that no single item or interest exists independent of the others and all are important considerations in shaping a great deal. As a sales leader, teach your team to help professional buyers make an informed decision, not to take ownership of conflicting priorities.
Professional Buyers Frequently Lack Subject Matter Expertise
In many situations, professional buyers need help from subject matter experts to fully understand and appreciate the differences between the supplier solutions they are being asked to consider. When they lack this expertise, it becomes more difficult to negotiate agreements quickly. Teach your sales team to help professional buyers understand the required capabilities for the project and why those requirements are so important. They’ll earn a position as a trusted resource for this and future purchase decisions.
Professional Buyers May Only Understand Zero Sum Negotiations
Professional buyers likely learned about negotiation the same way most of us learned about it – through their life experience. The dominant view of negotiation that most of us learn through our life experience is a zero-sum approach. This approach is often referred to as "old school" negotiating. To improve your team’s negotiating effectiveness, teach them to help buyers see the benefits of a value-based approach to negotiation. Effectively managing tactics of your own value-based negotiation approach can influence a shift in a buyer’s zero-sum approach.
When in Doubt, Most Professional Buyers Default to Price
In their attempt to gain leverage over the seller, professional buyers may mistakenly (or purposely) minimize other important decision criteria. Ironically, this self-imposed denial actually makes them a less informed buyer, unable to effectively distinguish between alternatives. To justify their purchase recommendation to their internal customer, they usually default to the easiest criteria to see – price. There’s an old saying in sales negotiation that applies here – "All the sins of our sales process come home to roost in the final stage of negotiation with a professional buyer." Your team’s upstream efforts to establish the foundational components of value will pay huge dividends later in the negotiation process. It’s the way world-class sales negotiators head off potential issues long before they ever surface.
As a sales leader, sharing these six truths about professional buyers can shift your team’s mindset and increase their opportunities to create great deals.