John O' Gorman

BEWARE: There Is Always A Buying Process

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No Process, No Way!

‘We are not terribly sophisticated when it comes to buying’ said the director of a Top 5 professional services firm.  ‘For example, we just chose a marketing agency, but did not follow a structured process’ he continued.

Interesting I thought, knowing that many sellers would say that professional services firms are not the easiest to sell too.  So, I asked a few more questions and quickly realized that just because the steps involved in making a major purchase are not documented, does not mean that the buying team didn’t follow a process, even a sophisticated one.

‘A Process By Any Other Name…’

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s ‘a rose by any other name doth smell so sweet’ a process by any other name doth shape buying.  Whether the steps are documented or not, they can still influence how the buying decision is made.

Back to the firms selection of a marketing agency, here is how the director described what happened:

  • We had set out a scope of what we required (including a budget), based on our past experience in using suppliers in this area
  • Our marketing person pulled a list together of potential suppliers and profiled them
  • The list was compiled from one of the approved directories and by asking around our own network
  • She then short-listed a handful of companies, based on the brands they had as customers
  • We issued the short list with a brief in terms of our requirements and requested a proposal
  • We had presentations from most of the selected companies
  • We asked for client references from each and contacted many of them
  • Based on the proposal and presentation we selected what we felt was the best
  • We started the new company out on a specific part of the project so that we could review progress, before committing any further.

That is a total of 9 steps involved the selection of a marketing agency.  Clearly the decision was not going to be made on a whim!

There Is Always A Set of Steps

So, even though the process was not documented, clearly one was in evidence.   The lesson for us sellers is that buyers always have a process, even if it is not documented, and that process is more sophisticated than we often realize.

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