Procurement and sales teams tend to have a negative view of each other. Salespeople view procurement as the people who take their deals, shave 20% off the top, and subsequently cause them to lose deals. John Barrows, my guest on a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja, and I discuss ways to decrease the tension between these two teams.
Engage with procurement as early as possible
Instead of waiting until the end of the sales process, find a way to get procurement involved early. John points out that some prospects bring up an NDA immediately before you even come into their offices. He notes that this gives him a clue that they are contract-reliant and that their procurement team is detailed.
So as he’s beginning the process with them, it gives him the opening to ask “What does the procurement process look like? When do they need to get involved with this?”. It’s a great way to open the door and get them engaged in the process immediately. If you’re able to do this, procurement can end up being your biggest champion.
Conflict happens when procurement comes into the process at the very end and pushes for a better price, unaware of what’s happened throughout the sales process. Sales reps get pissed because they negotiate, agree, and then get kicked over to someone else who they think “doesn’t understand the value” of the process.
Salespeople are also afraid to get procurement involved because they’re afraid of rejection. They’ve put in an immense amount of work to get to the point they’re at. They know they’re providing a solution that can make a difference. They feel that procurement knows they’re vulnerable and will take advantage of that.
Change the way you communicate
Another way to decrease tension and foster better relationships is to change the way you communicate. Often, procurement responds to a proposal and request changes over an email. This is likely because the procurement person is being lazy. They believe that they can be more efficient via email and use it as a default during negotiations. But email is one of the most impersonal modes of communication.
The vast majority of communication is non-verbal. You cannot gauge tone, inflection or read body language through an email. Email actually limits your communication and lengthens the process. Instead of engaging in repeated emails, pick up the phone and make a call. Or do a video chat. Better yet—meet in person. You will accomplish much more, even if it requires you stepping outside of your comfort zone.
You can’t start long-term professional relationships without effective communication. Furthermore, you need to cultivate an understanding of each other’s roles. You can ask to meet with procurement and simply state that you want to understand how to meet their needs and share how they can meet yours.
Engaging with procurement early on in the process, changing the way you communicate, and cultivating relationships are a few ways to bridge the gap. John shares more about how his perception of procurement has changed, how sales need to prepare for the impending market correction, and further details how to communicate in episode 126 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast. Check it out to gain more insight into the world of sales.