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Friend or Foe: Understanding and Creating Value for Professional Buyers

This is part five in this series. It started with The Gatekeeper. The second post was The End-User Stakeholders. The third was Ancillary Stakeholders. The fourth post was Understanding and Creating Value for Management Stakeholders. Now we move on to professional buyers.

Sometimes professional buyers are obstacles to a deal. They can limit your access to the information that you need to compete well, and they can forbid access to all of the other stakeholders mentioned in this series.

Worse still, some of them are actually compensated for reducing spending, causing a direct conflict with your strategy of selling value instead of cost. Some just need you to participate in order to fill in the blanks on their spreadsheet.

But this isn’t always the case. Many professional buyers play a key role in ensuring that their company has the right partners in place and in securing their supply chain. Many are as relationship-driven as other stakeholders, and look to salespeople to help them best serve their company and to help keep them competitive.

Regardless, if you sell something that is complex at any level, you are going to deal with procurement professionals.

Who They Are

Procurement professionals are focused on ensuring that their company chooses the right partners and vendors. Their role includes making sure that the company gets the best value for the money it spends. It also includes making sure that they have partners and vendors that are going to perform, and that their performance is going to allow their company to perform well for its clients and customers.

It is also their role to reduce risk. They protect the company from disruptions to their supply chain, ensuring that the company has what it needs, where it needs it, and when it needs it.

They are analytical. They are evidence-based buyers. They are non-emotional. They are shrewd and tough negotiators. Many have taken classes to learn negotiating tactics. Many are skeptical of salespeople, and many who aren’t skeptical pretend to be.

How You Create Value for Professional Buyers

You create value for a professional buyer by helping them to understand your industry, with all of it’s nuanced complexities. They aren’t subject matter experts in your space; they are subject matter experts in purchasing. They expect you to help them understand what solutions are possible and what constraints will need to be overcome to generate the results that they need.

They also need you to create value for them by making them aware of risks and threats. They need you to help them understand what external factors may impact their business and prevent them from getting the results that they need.

They expect you to be able to help them understand the value that you create and what they can expect in the way of a return on their investment.

There are some procurement professionals who will choose the absolute lowest price, but in my experience, they are the exception. Most try to choose the greatest value, and they almost always reject the lowest price because they understand that margins that are too low mean poor service, missed commitments, and disruptions to their supply chain. They don’t like to take major risks.

You create value for them by helping them make the case for your solution. You create value for them by being the business-acumen-possessing-businessperson that can help them by owning and managing the outcomes that you sell.

Risks

You run into risks with procurement people when you don’t acknowledge and respect their role in the process. Sometimes this requires pushing to make the case to get what you really need to do the work that they expect of you. But avoidance isn’t an option in some deals, and it isn’t healthy.

You also kill your opportunity when you don’t have the business acumen and situational knowledge to talk about how you produce results, and how you understand their industry and how to create value for them. You run into risks when you can’t provide evidence that you can produce the results that are needed.

Post deal, you run into risks of losing a deal when you don’t comply with your service level agreements. You also put your client in the at risk column when you rest on your laurels, and when you stop brining them new ideas and new ways to create value.

Questions

Are purchasing professionals always an obstacle to a deal? Are they sometimes helpful to winning your opportunity?

Why are the needs of procurement professionals important to the process for some of your prospective dream clients?

How do you create value for purchasing professionals that attempt your effort at creating something meaningful and when they prevent you from gaining access to what you need to do your best work?


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