Paul shares some ideas on how to move that deal past procurement and on to the close.
Reach out to other decision makers on the project and have them champion your solution with procurement.
Introduce a benign sense of fear. What does that mean?
Find out what scares this procurement buyer more than your price.
Establish a deal timeline to help generate some urgency in their buying decision.
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What if procurement is stalling my deal?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Today we are going to talk about procurement departments and how they influence the deal. So here’s what’s going on. I was at a sales meeting recently talking to one of the top achievers within this team. And here’s the topic that came up. This salesperson has been working through multiple decision makers to get their deal pushed through—working with technical influencers, working with some high-level folks, mid-level folks, and the deal is getting pushed forward. They got verbal confirmation for it. However, the deal is now stuck in procurement. The procurement department is now part of the process, and the deal is getting stalled out a little bit. The procurement team is taking their time. And this is creating a couple of different issues that we’re going to talk through today. But the question is, “How do we handle that? What if my deal is stuck in procurement? It’s stalled out.” So we’re going to get into that.
Now, as I was analyzing this question, it made me think of the new book, Selling Through Tough Times. In the book, we talk about how to establish urgency in the buying decision. And you’ve got to remember, as customers go through tough times, deals will get stalled out, especially if it’s a high dollar amount. If they’re taking on some risks in making this decision, they’re going to stall that out. They pause because of fear. And we’ve got to help our customers get out of their own way. So. in Selling Through Tough Times, I have a whole chapter dedicated to persuasion, especially through tough times. Make sure you check it out. You can pick up Selling Through Tough Times on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you get your books.
So let’s get back to it. What if procurement is stalling my deal? So, I’ve got four or five ideas I’m going to share with you today that will help—four or five ideas that will help. So, let’s begin with the first one. The good news is, this salesperson has done everything right up to this point. This salesperson has been working with multiple decision makers on this deal. That gives the salesperson a couple of options.
So, first thing I would do is reach out to your other decision makers that are involved in the process and have them champion your solution with procurement. And here’s what happens. A little group dynamic here, a little groupthink. Irving Janis—he’s the guy who came up with Groupthink. And what was interesting about Groupthink, how he developed it and all that (without getting too much into it), he was amazed at how, individually, people can make smart decisions, but when they get together in groups, the decision making really can get hairy. It can get bad. And that’s because the group dynamic will take over—the polarization, if you will. Here’s what’s going on. The group starts to think together. They naturally start moving towards a certain direction. It’s really about how they can generate consensus among the group.
So, here’s what’s happening when you’ve got multiple decision makers. You’ve got one decision maker who is maybe holding up the show. And if you’ve got three or four other decision makers that are individually going out to this decision maker and expressing their willingness to buy into it, but also expressing that, “Hey, would you be able to help us out? Would you be able to move forward with this?” They’re championing and trying to persuade that buyer. This procurement person is going to get all this pressure from these different angles. Eventually they’re going to conform—they’re going to conform to the group. So that’s why we want to get those other decision makers involved to help champion our solution.
Now, the next piece here, we want to introduce a benign sense of fear—introduce a benign sense of fear. And I know that may sound a little heavy handed, but the key word there is benign—not fear. And the best way to do that is to emphasize the cost of waiting. Emphasize the cost of waiting on this project, especially if procurement is the one stalling out this deal. Make them aware of what it’s going to cost them if they decide to wait. And you can go back to the procurement person and say, “Okay, here’s what we were planning to do on this project.” Start emphasizing the outcomes that your solution will help generate. In this case, just knowing more about this one company, the solution that they were going to put together is going to help this customer produce parts more profitably, more efficiently.
So go back to that customer and say, “Okay, you know, jeez, let’s see how we can move this forward because my concern is what this is costing your company as we wait to try to hash this out. I mean, for every month that we’re delaying implementation, it’s costing your company, by our calculations, at least $10 to $20,000 in revenue or profit,” (whatever the number may be). Find some hard numbers and make the buyer aware of that. What is happening now is we’re introducing them to the fear factor a little bit—the cost of waiting and what that’s going to do to them.
And so, as we go through that as well, another way to introduce a benign sense of fear is to ask yourself, “Okay, what scares this procurement person more than our price? What are they scared of?” Remember, procurement is always scared of something more than they are scared of your price. So be aware of what that is. It could be a delay, right? What would that delay cost to the company rather? That could be what they’re fearful of. Think of some other things: making an unpopular decision, going against the grain, standing out, making a wrong decision.
Another thing to consider again, what scares procurement more than your price? Right now, people don’t want a target on their back. With the recession looming, (there’s rumblings of a recession like there always is). But as we face slowdowns in the economy, as dollars tighten, as resources tighten, as people become a little more fearful of their place within their company, people are going to look at their decisions that they’re making and they’re going to say, “Okay, I don’t want a target on my back.” Well, if the procurement person is making an unpopular decision—they’re holding up the show, they’re costing their company money—what could be a bigger target than that? Again, we want to do it tactfully, but gosh, they need to be aware of what this decision is costing their company. So be able to introduce that benign sense of fear.
And finally, one thing I would do—establish a deal timeline. Establish a deal timeline. And this is something that is especially relevant as we face rising material costs. We are in an inflationary period right now. It’s unreasonable—it is unreasonable for your customers to think that you can hold firm on pricing 30, 60, even 90 days out. It’s just unreasonable for them to think that. So, what I would consider doing is, go back to your main contacts and let them know, “This is how we were really expecting the timeline to look,” and then lay out that timeline over 30, 60, 90 days. And if they’re not able to make commitments by a certain date, let them know, “Hey, we’ve got to go back and reconfigure the costs.”
Material cost is changing on a monthly, weekly—. I heard one salesperson say that their costs are changing on an hourly basis, and they’re not even in a, what I would call, a true commodity-type selling environment. Hourly—I mean, that’s ridiculous. So, go back to the customer and explain, “Hey, look. We can’t hold these prices firm longer than 30, 60, or 90 days,” whatever makes sense. That can help generate some urgency in their buying decision.
Make it a big day.