Imagine you’ve captured an organization’s interest, submitted a winning proposal, identified a promising opportunity, and your champion says to you…

“It’s time to loop in procurement.”

When it comes to winning over the procurement team, and moving through the process quickly, there are lots of unknowns. Who needs to be involved in the final decision-making process? What categories does procurement oversee? What security and compliance issues are they concerned about? 

To support your Q4 push, and help you glide through procurement smoothly, we’ve enlisted the help of a few of our top advisors in the procurement space. 

Over the next few weeks, we’re sharing our advisors’ advice around three key areas that sales executives should consider when approaching procurement: the product, the people, and the process.

This is the first article in the series, and it’s all about how to best position your product for the procurement or legal team. We sat down with Amy Haney, former Sr. Director of Category Procurement at Abbott and president of 3-10 Partners, to ask her what she expects to learn about a supplier’s product in the procurement stage. 

Read on to learn the best approach to position your product to the procurement team and differentiate yourself throughout the process.

Approach Procurement Directly

First, it’s important to be proactive about up-leveling your conversations early and initiating an open dialogue with procurement. Easier said than done? We know.

A crucial beginning point that can often be overlooked is finding the opportunity to clearly and specifically articulate your solution to procurement to avoid mis-categorization. In some organizations, technology may be categorized as a separate procurement vertical while, in others, it spans across categories or within the business function.

According to an Emissary procurement advisor from a major insurance carrier,

“The best option is to get in touch with the procurement specialist directly and determine how they categorize different types of software and how they handle contract reviews and renewals.” 

Once this has been established, Amy’s advice from her time at Abbott is:

“Never be afraid to go directly to procurement with your sales pitch. A good procurement team will give a supplier the opportunity to have discussions & feedback sessions. Sellers who seek to have discussions and better understand their clients are typically more successful.”

Another advisor who served as Chief Procurement Officer at a telecommunications company agreed that the early procurement stages are pivotal in helping you understand the needs and requirements of the procurement team specifically. Doing this homework ahead of time is a key part of finalizing a deal. He says,

“Understand how your products and services fit in the potential customer’s overall reality. It’s usually good to have options and to listen to what the customer really needs. Then, you have time to adjust and get back to them with an improved proposition that suites the needs of the organization as a whole.”

Be Adaptable and Patient

According to Amy, it’s essential to show procurement decision-makers that your product (and your team) is able to be “nimble, agile, and creative” to fit their client’s needs now and grow with them in the future. Use specific examples, case studies and data to illustrate your product’s value, and be able to speak to the ways your product will improve the day-to-day experience of its users in a way your competitors can’t. 

You’re also likely to be working with a lot of different stakeholders with different needs. Amy notes that during this process that may seem long and tiresome,

“A supplier first and foremost needs to exercise patience, as this is an important part of the vetting process.”

In her experience, suppliers who have the most long-term success are those willing to take a step back, ask hard questions, and seek advice. Suppliers with long-term success are willing to take a step back when things aren’t going well because they understand that starting slow and potentially smaller is the price you pay when investing in a long-term strategic relationship. Teams like this have the best chance of building and expanding their footprint exponentially over the years. 

 

Put Business Objectives First

At the end of the day, the procurement team’s responsibility lies in aligning their supply needs with their business objectives. Be ready to speak not only to the broad strokes of what your product can do, but to specific examples of how it will benefit the organization, and how it aligns with the business’s initiatives. Be ready for these types of questions you’re likely to be asked and have your responses ready to go. Advice from a former global executive director at a major automotive company:

“Solve a current problem and be able to articulate the expected business benefit realization and include how you measure realization. With respect to business benefit, talk in terms of total cost of ownership across the enterprise from an end to end perspective as well as addressing both cost efficiency and operational effectiveness gains.”

In this adjustment period, be sure to do your due diligence of understanding the organization’s major business pain points thoroughly so that you can properly tailor your message to address their specific needs. In the words of a former Head of Corporate Technology at a major pharmaceutical company, 

“A vendor who can communicate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of their technology to a non-technical person will immediately increase their impact.” 

Listen Carefully and Objectively

All in all, the key to navigating this process smoothly is to do your homework ahead of time so that you can enter the phase prepared with an adaptable, ready-to-procure product. Know what you’re offering and how it fits into the landscape of the organization, consider how your product will integrate with other solutions already in play, and be ready to define it all clearly to the stakeholders at the table.

Lastly, listen to what they have to say. Show your value as a partner and avoid being bucketed as just another one of the thousand suppliers that are approaching them. Once you’ve come prepared, you’ll be ready to find the right people to approach and the best way to navigate through the process of procurement.

Stay tuned for our next post in the series where we’ll dive into people: the key players and decision-makers in the procurement process and how to navigate highly complex organizational structures.