The Sales Representative’s Checklist for Collaborating with Procurement: Part 2

Do you see view procurement as a threat and necessary evil that must be managed carefully on each sales opportunity or do you view them as an ally that can help you facilitate the procurement process? Last week in Part 1 of this blog we described the changing role of procurement and the lens of how they see sales people. This week in Part 2 (we will provide a checklist with questions on how to better work with procurement to make them partners and not adversaries.

Below is a simplified checklist that will help you formulate a collaborative approach to working with procurement instead of competing with them on price, terms and conditions.

Check List:

√ Determine who will participate in evaluating your proposal or negotiate a deal.

o   What experience do they have in this industry? What is their area of expertise?

o   What other projects or tasks are competing for their time and that may distract them from evaluating your proposal thoroughly an, completely and fairly?

o   What timeframe are they considering and how does this align with your needs?

√ Discover what the procurement process looks like (steps, issues, timeline, competitive landscape, signature approval process etc.).

o   Who do they report to and who will be involved in their briefing or report?

o   How does procurement connect to the overall decision process?

o   Is Procurement advisory or do they have the capacity to dismiss an inadequate or unsound proposal?

√  Develop a collaborative approach that enables the procurement team to do their job.

o   What are they attempting to achieve and what are the organizational initiatives aligned with your proposal? Probe for “core issues” and links to strategic organizational initiatives.

o   What specifications or thresholds are they trying to reach and what documentation is required to demonstrate it?

o   What specific KPIs are being used by their organization to evaluate procurement’s performance either individually or as a team?

o   If procurement is faced with conducting performance tests or determining financial returns, find a way to help them do their job without biasing the results.

o   Use your coaches from within the organization to help you create your approach.

√  Share your value proposition and business case.

o   Make sure you understand how procurement calculates and documents financial return.

o   Case studies can be powerful in demonstrating benefits. Is there someone from another company that is willing to share their experience with procurement?

√  Prepare to discuss and aid in evaluating price issues, concerns and demands.

o   Do they mean price or cost savings? Price is easy because it levels the playing field among competitors, but isn’t cost savings what they are looking for?

o   If you can’t meet price expectations, develop a list of optional benefits that have financial value through the procurement lens.

o   If you can meet their price expectations, ask for something in return that benefits your organization.

o   It’s hard to discuss price without considering risk. Be prepared to build a case for risk control and mitigation.

√  Keep your Executive Sponsor abreast of all activity and ask for assistance as appropriate.

o   Remember that your Executive Sponsor has a vested interest in the outcome of your discussions and can speed and expedite approval.

o   Your Executive Sponsor may be focused on KPIs that are somewhat different from the procurement team.

o   Document everything and share updates with your sponsor in a timely fashion.

√  Don’t let the Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ) limit your capacity to offer solutions aligned with executive level initiatives.

o   Organizations are undergoing rapid change. While the RFP or RFQ might have be a good benchmark yesterday, the C-Suite may have more lofty expectations today. Be aware of senior level initiatives and favored projects. The “old school” procurement may have been unaware…but today’s procurement team is much better connected to the C-Suite.

Parting Thoughts

It’s hard to be collaborative when you perceive the other party as a threat. But it’s only a “threat” if the sales representative hasn’t done his or her homework, collecting performance data, case studies, ROI calculations, etc. Today’s procurement executives are tasked with validations that are often complex and time consuming. Ask them what you can do to simplify their job. If they say, “No, that’s ok. I’ll work it out”, offer test results, testimonials, contacts with names, titles and phone numbers. It can’t hurt and it goes a long way in reminding them that you’re approaching negotiation mindful of their challenges.