3 Ways to Build Sales Relationships with Procurement

What does your strategy for building relationships with procurement teams look like? Are your Sales Account Managers clear on how they can work with sophisticated procurement departments in a way which results in a successful relationship for your business?

Building business relationships with a team of ‘professional buyers’ can be challenging. Developing relationships over time is an important factor but how does this translate from a broad objective to actionable steps which makes the relationship truly valuable to your customer?

We’ve worked with a range of Sales Account Management teams on this topic, including oil & lubricant suppliers and defence organisations. Here are three ways we recommend building a successful sales relationship with procurement.

1.    Understand Complex Sales

Where your customer’s buying decision is large or challenging, their evaluation of whether to choose you as the supplier, and critically how much they want to pay for your products and services, is more likely to lie with a number of people rather than one key decision-maker in the procurement team.

In our experience, normally it's one or two people who are very keen and engaged. However, there can also be three to four who haven’t thought the decision through yet and therefore aren’t as keen. This can be challenging when the keen ones present their ideas, they don’t get the traction they expect, and the sale doesn’t happen.

Successful Sales Account Managers make sure they invest time upfront to understand who’s involved in the buying decision – including those outside of procurement - and where each individual is on their own buying journey (i.e. how committed they are to your solution as opposed to your competitors). They get to really understand each stakeholder’s needs and wants.

The successful Sales Account Manager is then able to map the problems which their product or service solves for that customer. This planning gives them the insight to create highly targeted content for each stakeholder, which explains exactly how their products or services meet the company’s (and the stakeholder’s) needs.

2.    Build Better Business Relationships

Of course, the world has moved on and relationships matter less than they used to, BUT they do still matter.

However, too many people focus on building the personal relationship and not nearly enough on developing the business relationship. Having a positive personal relationship is a good first step, but does the customer have a clear understanding of the business value that you and your company provides? In too many cases the relationship is purely social and ‘we get on’ is assumed to mean ‘we have a relationship’. That is not enough to cause the desire to buy.

Selling is all about value creation for the customer or, maybe in some cases, value protection. Illustrating what value you might be able to create, or already provide, is fundamental. And in business, value needs to have numbers attached to it!

So, help your customer learn how and where your business adds value to their business. Successful Sales Account Managers don’t start negotiating until they are absolutely sure the customer truly understands the value of what’s on offer. That way they avoid the risk of getting into a price war.

3.    Find yourself a customer champion

Successful Sales Account Managers find a customer champion within the organisation, someone who could be within the procurement department - but not necessarily. If your product or service can make their job significantly easier, more efficient, then the champion is more likely to be supportive of what your business has to offer. A champion really can be the key catalyst for success.

‘I would even go as far as saying all the big deals I have won over the years have always involved a champion, and where I've lost it’s because I haven't had one’ says Chris Smith, one of our JA Consulting consultants with many years sales’ experience.

An effective champion will provide you with valuable insights into the decision-making process and the people involved. They’ll help you anticipate any questions from procurement, and others, so you can do your homework and be thoroughly prepared. A good champion will help your team to nuance their sales messages to create well-targeted content as well as offer you advice on the timing and delivery.

If you can't find a champion early on it’s a sure signal to qualify out.

Find A Coach

And for good measure, find yourself some coaching support – especially a coach who understands the selling environment and will challenge your thinking and planning.

To find out more about how JA Consulting can work with your Sales Account Management teams and help set your organisation on the right track to win with procurement, then get in touch with John Moss at JA Consulting.

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