Selling to procurement professionals is something that most people find frustrating, mainly because they are highly resistant to direct sales.
Well, no one in procurement cares about your product, they only care about making sure their organisation succeeds. That means the right product at the keenest possible price.
So the following sales techniques are bound to fail:
- Calling up a buyer and asking to meet them for a coffee.
- Promoting your product as either 'revolutionary' or 'market leading'.
- Approaching them without having first done your homework.
When suppliers start talking about themselves, most procurement people hear a noise that sounds a lot like "I want to be richer". In other words, a direct sale is really hard.
Suppliers need to not only solve buyers' problems but be able to prove that they can solve buyers' problems. That's why it is critical to understand the problems that the buyer has, and to have independent proof or validation of your capabilities.
So, you need to invest in data and in research. You need to understand your buyer's priorities and their challenges so that you can shape your offer to meet their needs.
Once you have a product that fits the buyer's needs you want to get the message out; and here's the dilemma: you want to be talked about but you shouldn't be doing the talking.
Instead, you need to get credible people to talk about your product. For instance, companies that try and sell to government will pay thousands to sponsor think tanks to report on issues that are relevant to them. This approach creates a buzz around your company, without the bragging which can be so damaging.
Investing in brand awareness is also a common ploy, but it can be hard to measure whether that generates a significant return.
Finally, you can also get some success by promoting yourself to senior personnel that sit above procurement but you still need to have a good product fit and some sort of proof that your product can deliver, otherwise, trying to leverage yourself into government on the back of connections can backfire, just ask Lex Greensill.
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