Did you ever wonder what a procurement officer or buyer is thinking? Did you ever ask the buyer of your goods or services what they need? Did you ever wonder what drives a buyer crazy? Wonder no more! I have been reading and re-reading a book called “Feedback! Sales Advice from the Buyers Desk.”
In the interest of being perfectly transparent, I know the author. I have never actually met him in person. However, when I was working on my book “Small Business for Big Thinkers” I set out to interview buyers and through a few well-placed inquires I met Christopher Locke, C.P.S.M. For those not acquainted with the acronym it means Certified Professional in Supply Management.
Chris has a very straightforward and refreshing approach to sales that helps business owners and sales people understand how buyers think and why they source to specific suppliers. There is a lot of great advice and insights that can help sales professionals and business owners.
In this day and age when most companies are trying to consolidate their supply base, it may be hard for a small business to get that opportunity to break into a large company. And, even if you do get the opportunity to bid, buyers may be afraid to take a chance on you. Why? Locke explores the subject and tells us what buyers fear most. Here are his fears and some of the ways I address them.
Buyers are afraid that smaller companies may not be as stable as larger ones. They fear the thought of a supplier going out of business. When that happens, it has a ripple effect and can cause a huge disruption. One thing that I have tried to do to overcome this perception is to emphasize the history of the company and the relationships that I have with long-term clients. Locke suggests that you might want to share your balance sheet. This can help ease concerns that you have enough business coming through the doors to be sustainable.
Another thing that buyers fear is that you might not meet the project budget requirements. No one can afford to be over budget but a buyer has even more pressure. It is his or her job to financially protect their company. In fact, that is the number one priority. I try to show buyers how we control costs and the systems we have in place to be sure that we meet the requirements. Sometimes my costs are higher than what they want to spend. In that case, I need to make a decision. Can I find a way to cut costs, deliver great product and still make money? Or do I thank them for the opportunity and walk away? It’s a tough call and I look at every situation individually. Locke offers this tip. If your costs are higher, work with the buyer to find a solution. He says, “Point out areas where engineering, product expectations and specifications are causing your prices too skyrocket. That will get the buyers attention.”
One final fear for buyers is not having enough time in the day get all the work done. Funny that’s my fear as well. The fix on this one is simple. Tell the buyer that you know how busy they are and assure them that you will be efficient and limit meetings to short, productive ones. Then follow through on the promise.
Frankly, I love the buyers I work with, but I have worked really hard to establish a good relationship and always over-deliver. If you are looking for more great tips from someone who sits behind the buyer’s desk-pick up the book.