A procurement team helps an organization achieve its goals by negotiating with suppliers to acquire goods and services. By definition, a procurement team can seem like the antithesis of a sales team or, in some cases, the archnemesis. Sooner or later, every sales professional will reach the proverbial handshake on a deal, only to have procurement open an RFP, strip your value proposition to a mere number, and slap you with a no-contact clause to limit or prevent communication with the buyer or buyers with whom you’ve spent weeks building a rapport. While they can be frustrating, procurement teams are a staple of selling, especially for larger organizations or enterprise clients. Rather than view them as the enemy, it’s more productive to understand their goals and objectives from the opposite side of the deal. Here are five tips for negotiating with procurement teams:
Work hard during discovery to identify all decision makers and set a schedule for the sales process to keep things moving. Secure agreements with buyers and build discounts into the process to limit the power of procurement to undercut these agreements after the fact.
Often, procurement will seek to dismiss your value proposition so they can compare price apart from value among vendors. To counter this, build a strong network within the business that can advocate for your solutions in the event procurement initiates a blind RFP. Sometimes, they will attempt to cut you off from your champions in the organization. Yes, they can play hardball, and it’s best to be prepared.
Procurement is made up of negotiators trained to drive down price and get discounts. As such, they’ve dealt with countless salespeople, and they will often use your own tricks against you. Expect a certain degree of cynicism. Remember, they’ve heard it all before. Mitigate risk by emphasizing your track record of honest negotiating, delivering on promises, and building long-term partnerships.
Engage procurement early. Don’t wait until the end of the sales process. Ask your main contact about their criteria and arrange a meeting to ascertain their needs and how you can help them achieve their goals. Treat them as another decision maker. Build a relationship with them and show you are willing to work with and not against them. Ask upfront how you can expedite the process along with documents you can provide such as references, insurance, etc.
Present solutions that can’t be broken down into a simple price comparison. Differentiate yourself from the competition with innovative solutions that are worth the initial investment because they save money over the long term. Show how delays in the process can increase cost and how streamlining the sales process to meet the target date agreed to with the buyer(s) will helps their organization. Offer customized solutions to show your dedication and commitment to long-term relationships.
As an entity, a procurement team can seem like a formidable foe, a snarling, hideous, uncaring gatekeeper of sales mythology, determined to undermine and prevent all win-win deals. While this makes them exciting, sales professionals should remember they are just people doing their jobs. Just as sales professionals have their tricks of the trade to win over prospects, provide the best solutions, and secure profitable deals for their organizations, procurement teams do the same in reverse from the other side of the fence. The more you show you understand their position and work with them to achieve their goals, the more flexible that they will be, and when it comes to long-term relationships with clients, there’s no greater asset than a positive relationship with their procurement team.