View From the Top - When Salespeople Call on Purchasing

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 @ 15:02 PM

TaxisThe single question that salespeople ask more than any other is, "When I'm with Purchasing, they don't seem to have a compelling reason to buy and don't care about our value-add.  What can I do?"  I'll answer that question shortly.  First, I have an analogy to help you see it from my perspective.

Take an elevator up at least 20 floors in Manhattan and immediately you'll notice that the view from the top is mostly yellow - a sea of taxis mixed in with some limos and buses.  From high above Manhattan, I saw these comparisons:

Great salespeople - The elite 6% are in the limos.  They get the red carpet treatment as a result of some very professional, smooth, comfortable door-to-door service from a chauffeur.  That's right.  Great salespeople find a chauffeur - someone with the right connections to drive you directly to a decision-maker who cares enough to make decisions.  On the strength of the introduction, you are seen differently, not as a commodity, but as a partner, advisor or expert.

Decent salespeople - The next 20% are in the taxis.  They're trying to go where the limos go, but it's not as smooth, easy, or comfortable, and when they drop you off, you must fend for yourself.  Without doors being opened and introductions being made on your behalf, you'll have to fight your way to the top and probably won't get there.  You don't have the VIP pass.  So you may reach middle management - people who need to schedule meetings, can't say "yes", won't say "no" and string you along.

Everyone else - The bottom 74% are on the buses.  The buses will get you there too, but they'll bring you to the transportation hub where all salespeople disembark - Purchasing or Procurement.  You're "there", but with little hope of accomplishing anything except talking about price, delivery dates and compliance, while being viewed as a commodity. Your only hope is to win  the price war which is not really a victory, as much as it is a contest to see how low you can go.  It's not a sustainable way to grow profits.  And once you have begun with Purchasing and been frustrated there, you can't go over their heads.

Before I answer the question about what you can do, let me ask a few questions:

  • Why are salespeople content to ride the bus to nowhere?
  • Why are their sales managers, VP's, Presidents and CEO's content to allow the bus rides to continue?
  • You would think that as soon as salespeople are shown best practices relative to what to do and how to do it, selling would immediately become much easier, but many of the 74% are like rubber bands and snap back to their comfortable behaviors.  Why is it so difficult for them to change?

This particular problem is due to what I call a Non-Supportive Buy Cycle when the way in which a salesperson buys does not support the ideal outcome of a sales process.  When we attempt to create change, the contradiction between how some salespeople buy and how we want them to sell is enormous.  Selling the way in which Purchasing wants to buy (lowest price) resonates and it costs companies billions of dollars in lost revenue.  It's one of the hidden weaknesses that make salespeople completely ineffective and even new skills don't fix the problem.  The only cure for this is surgery - your salespeople must change the way they buy things.

There are five hidden elements to the Non-Supportive Buy Cycle and you can learn which salespeople have them, which ones they have and what kind of impact they're having on your revenue and profit by evaluating your sales force.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales training, Sales Coaching, omg, selling to procurement, selling to purchasing, losing business because of price, sales assessments

Why Most Companies are Struggling to Grow Revenue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 @ 09:04 AM

sales training dave kurlan picChris Scirpoli, of Invoke Selling, managed to engage me for nearly 15 minutes in a power-packed, fast-paced, video interview that covered a tremendous amount of ground in a very short period of time.  He did the mandatory, "Tell me about your background.", but he left nearly 13 minutes for me to elaborate on the greatest challenges to sales managers and salespeople, and the various approaches that can be implemented to solve these challenges.  Because of the questions which he asked, it was one of the better interviews with regard to content.  You can watch the interview here.  If you liked that, you'll really like the Sales Leadership Symposium in Boston next month.  

Dan Perry, writing at Sales Benchmark Index's Sales Force Effectiveness Blog, wrote that "The single biggest problem with sales today is sales reps are mismatched to the buyer.  They think like a sales rep and not like a buyer."  

Well, Dan, I don't agree and I have the statistics to back me up.  If you were to interview buyers (we don't call them that in 2012, we call them procurement specialists today), I'm sure they would agree with me because they don't want to be sold anything by anybody!  They want total control, want to squeeze every last dime from you, and don't want to share any information that might help a salesperson gain an edge.  

The biggest problem with salespeople today (I can back it up with the data from Objective Management Group, which has assessed more than 550,000 salespeople) is that 63% are not reaching decision-makers and 58% begin the sales process with procurement.  In general, the sales population doesn't possess the skills to sell consultatively (on average, salespeople have only 21% of the attributes of the consultative skill set), to uncover compelling reasons to buy and to use those compelling reasons as leverage, and to differentiate themselves. That leverage causes decision-makers to tell their procurement people to do business with your company (the company that stood out).  If your salespeople can differentiate themselves to such a degree that a decision-maker wants to buy from you, it's the internal decision-makers that must sell the procurement folks, not your salespeople!  When the opportunity finally arrives at procurement, only the terms need to be negotiated.

Don't believe everything you read.  Just because it's printed, doesn't mean it's good.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management training, sales leadership training, selling to procurement, selling to purchasing, selling to buyers, sales benchmark index, sales assessments

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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