Sellers’ Influence Zone

Sellers influence has limitationsI’ve heard from a number of sales executives recently about Procurement’s surprise involvement in a large contract bid. The following seems obvious but evidently in the heat of selling it’s often overlooked. Thanks for your patience in advance.

Some sellers are surprised to find Procurement co-opting a buying process and steering it off into a dark room filled with sales atrocities, like online auctions.

There are zones in a buyer’s organization that sellers can influence, and there are those they can’t. Recognizing the difference helps sellers do what they can and stop complaining about the zones they can’t influence.

If Procurement has purchased online auction technology they’re going to use it everywhere they can to justify that spend. If Procurement wants to bid a facility service contract in an online auction they will.

If they do, sellers should admit they were too late and shallow in their selling. Sellers had failed to influence the buying organization in advance of the decision. That org still thinks online auctions are an effective and efficient way to buy complex services. This isn’t the opinion of any seller-contractor I’ve spoken with, but none the less there are buyers who feel that way. Maybe someone should point them to “Reversing into Darkness“.

It’s not surprising that in large, complex sales sellers are often caught short and then realize they should have been selling earlier and deeper than they did.

Symptoms, not the Illness

Online auctions and lowest-price selections are symptoms. The illness is a seller anemia that causes short-sightedness and laziness. This condition confines sellers from digging deeper to better understand the organization they’re selling to.

Procurement knows what they know, and they’re going forward with that. Who can blame them? They’re busy with too many buys to make. What they don’t know, beyond a cursory level, is how to get the most out of that contracted service. That knowledge sits with sellers.

Complexity of Buying

Sellers begin most conversations in a buyer’s company with the day-to-day manager of the outsourced service. Fine. Good. A start. The reality of large sales is that there will be many buyers (decision makers) involved, some only tangentially involved with the service on a day to day basis.

Let’s consider the following model, from company to final buy/sale.

Sellers' influence is limited, so why sweat the other stuff?

At the left side there is the Company and the Department. The Company is an organizational structure and the Department is a function. Think of them both as things.

In the middle are Buyer(s) and you, the Seller. These are people (regardless of what you think about Procurement).

This middle is the sellers’ zone of influence – with people. Not organizational structures or departmental functions.

Sellers can’t influence a company’s legal requirements, or which departments drive a specific bid , or whether to buy an online auction technology and try it out.

Sellers only influence people. And that’s the sellers’ opportunity. If they begin conversations and relationships deeper into the buyer’s company. Sellers can influence the people who choose HOW to buy facility services.

Sellers, once they have relevant relationships with buyers, can educate buyers against online auctions, can raise buyers’ consciousness to unique aspects of service performance and delivered value.

I can already hear some sellers cry out they’re already doing this. I’ll bet they do too. But most likely with one, maybe two buyers in the process, and rarely with Procurement.

Sellers’ involvement with Procurement typically comes at the end of a bid process – at least the publicly visible end. Procurement has been busy much earlier. And that’s the time sellers can seek to educate and indoctrinate Procurement into the mysteries of facility services.

Lastly, at the far right of the Interconnectedness model is the Buy/Sale, which is the result the Company needs, the goal the Department exists for, and the desire of both the Buyer and Seller.

Next Week

In next week”s blog we’ll look at a seller’s look at a 7-step strategic sourcing process that Procurement professionals love.

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Chris Arlen
President, Revenue-IQ

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