3 Ways To Deal With Complex Customer Procurement Practices

January 26, 2015 Russ Chadinha

Sophisticated procurement organizations have a maniacal focus on internal process efficiency and improving their ability to objectively choose the right suppliers.

Unfortunately, simplifying the procurement process means greater challenges in your sales process. To build the necessary relationships, your sales rep now needs to find a way to work beyond just the transactional procurement process.

So, what makes the sales process challenging in these situations? It starts when your prospect is a procurement organization with a thorough methodology that governs how it wants vendors to work with them. This methodology is designed to make the procurement process more efficient through automation, as much as possible, of the procurement steps.

Often, the procurement organization issues a request for proposal (RFP). Developing a response to these proposals is typically a challenging, time-consuming process for your sales team. Historically, suppliers would try to build relationships and influence the requirements of the RFP in their favor. Reverse auctions and online proposal submission are just a few ways procurement organizations can now make it difficult for your reps to influence the RFP. It forces your sales reps to follow the procurement organization’s steps, which may not align with your sales process.

It also may put reps in the position of having to complete tasks that are unfamiliar or make it difficult for them to communicate the real advantages of your solution. Reverse auctions, for example, require your sales team to interact with procurement’s systems on their terms. These auctions generally drive suppliers to compete on price and make it challenging to communicate the value your unique solution provides.

Those are some of the problems that a sophisticated procurement process creates for your sales team.

How do you improve sales effectiveness in complex procurement situations?

For sophisticated procurement practices, the solution is to position the sales organization as a partner. If you’re dealing with a procurement organization, you’re not developing this relationship high enough or in the right places within the company. Here are three tips for building a trusted partner relationship — and getting around the procurement process gauntlet:

1) Make relationship-building mandatory: Require your sales reps to develop rapport with business owners and expand their reach across the company. Put it in their performance plans. It may be uncomfortable at first, so it is helpful to implement training and development programs that build and support the sales reps’ skills in this area. Giving them a proven, structured method will also help with change management and adoption if it is a new approach for the sales team.

2) Strategy and transactions: It seems so simple, POs require quota. So your sales reps want to focus on getting those POs so they can retire the quota assigned to them. Crushing that quota, making Club are common thoughts. But it takes a balance of strategic discussions and transactional activities to drive a sustainable relationship. The relationship building in the previous step puts sales reps in a position to conduct and participate in strategic conversations with the customer. These conversations, in turn, help to make your sales team part of the company’s development processes and give you influence when it comes to purchasing.

3) Maximize efficiency: Your sales reps must have the tools and training to be highly efficient with time. For instance, a global account manager often spends a lot of time on planes and in hotels. For your sales reps to be efficient and responsive, they can’t be bogged down with clumsy tools and administrative work that slows down the sales process. Tools such as CRM and CPQ with integrated pricing guidance deliver real help to the sales team by making them even more productive.

None of these topics is easy. It isn’t just firing off an email that gets you an immediate meeting with the CEO of Fortune 1000 companies. The reality is these steps take time. Persistent and consistent action over time will deliver results and once you’ve established a trusted partner relationship, Club here you come.

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