The Procurement Trap
By Paul Reilly
Salespeople meet with those that buy their products and services. So, if someone has the words buyer, purchasing or procurement in their title, you’d
assume he or she is your contact. However, the words
buyer, purchasing or procurement indicates authority to
buy, but not willingness to buy. This creates a paradox
for value-added salespeople. Your contact might be in
purchasing, but they are less willing to purchase your value-added solution, because purchasing focuses more on price
Procurement people are professional buyers. They know
the job of a salesperson is to sell at a certain price. Their
goal is to chisel away at your margins. Procurement departments withhold certain information. They won’t reveal
underlying issues. They know revealing their pain mitigates
the importance of price.
Procurement employs several techniques to focus the
conversation on price versus value. Procurement will com-moditize your solution. As hard as you sell them on your
differences, they sell you on your sameness. As enthusiastically as you promote your value-added extras, they discount
the importance of your value-added. Procurement tries to
convince you that all solutions are the same. When you’re
the same, price is all that matters.
Once your solution is stripped of its value, procurement
begins pricing ping-pong. You’ll go back and forth negotiating price. They’ll try convincing you that they’re acting
in your best interest by sharing the competitor’s pricing or
giving you last look. They’re not. Procurement is attempting
to squeeze every ounce of margin out of the deal.
Procurement will block you from the rest of the organization. Procurement builds walls in their department. They
discourage you from contacting other decision makers.
When other decision makers are involved, procurement
loses control. If other decision makers buy in to your value-added solution, price becomes less important.
How does procurement prove their worth to the organization? They get a discount. A discount is a tangible
outcome they can report to management. Procurement
has to prove their worth to the organization, as do you.
Salespeople prove it through performance, procurement
proves it with a discount. This is the fundamental challenge
of selling value-added to just procurement. It’s a tug of war
between price and value. If you’re just selling to procurement, a cheap price wins.
Here are a few tips to sell your value-added solution and
get past the procurement trap.
Avoid Procurement From The Beginning
Salespeople take the path of least resistance. Procure-
ment is more accessible than any other department. There
is a reason procurement is more accessible. Since it’s easy,
most salespeople start with procurement. Procurement
people are willing, able and available to meet. Once initial
contact is made with procurement, they discourage you
from talking to other decision makers. To get past the pro-
curement trap, avoid the trap from the very beginning.
Start the process with other decision makers involved. In
addition to purchasing, there are influencers. This group’s
opinion is their power. Establish first contact with this
group. Influencers and end-users are impacted the most by
the decision. They are more open to a value-added solution.
Make Joint Calls
Make a joint call with your company’s counterpart. If
you’re trying to meet with a senior manager, bring your
senior manager. If you’re meeting with an engineer, bring
one of your engineers. The easiest way to get a meeting
with a technical influencer is to bring along your company’s
technical influencer. Joint calling opens more doors and
facilitates deeper customer relationships making price less
Help The Buyer Achieve A Personal Win
Since procurement is part of the process, you have to
work with them, not against them. The next time you
meet with procurement, ask yourself, “What represents a
personal win for this buyer?” People are more open to a
value-added solution when you help them achieve their
Everyone has personal wins. Consider these personal wins
for procurement: impressing a new boss, getting promoted,
total cost savings, supplier development, cost-cutting initiatives, supplier diversity and better logistical support.
Paul Reilly is president of St. Louis-based Reilly
Sales Training, a privately-owned company specializing
in training sales professionals, sales managers and
service professionals. Contact Paul at 636-778-0175
or Paul@ReillySales Training.com.