View From the Top – When Salespeople Call on Purchasing

The 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 team.