John O' Gorman

When Big Companies Buy: The Sophistication of Buying Revealed

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Organisations are increasingly organized, structured and careful in terms of how they buy. As salespeople we know this to be true. Yet, it is easy to underestimate just how sophisticated many buyers have become.
Let us take the example of the buying process for major IT purchases in a large telco (as shown in the diagram below) to prove the point.

generic buying model
The first thing to notice is how comprehensive the buying process is. In fact it is not just a buying process, it is a business decision making and planning process. The purchase decision, is subsidiary to the business decision surrounding the new technology acquisition/implementation.

Across the top from left to right are key steps in the process – ranging from initial requirements capture to launch and review. Below each step is a list of actions to be completed – they are not optional! Of course, all this means that the buying process is going to take a lot longer and from the salesperson’s point of view is going to require a lot more work and entail a lot more unpredictability.

The process is a cerebral one! It is the application of business logic! The term plan, or planning is referred to in a total of 9 steps of the process and business case is addressed in a further 7 steps, or processes. Vendors take note that the terms sales proposal, presentation, or pitch do not feature at all!

Buyers Are Delaying Getting Vendors Involved.
Buyers are increasingly independent and this process demonstrates this point well. Where is the first point at which the salesperson, or vendor enters the equation? Well,  it is not until the third phase of the buyer’s planning process shown above.

So, the supplier is not called upon until the work on requirements capture and business case are well underway. At that point the organisation sets to ‘obtain quotes from suppliers’ and one can imagine those vendors waiting in the hall to deliver their sales pitch understimating just how advanced in the buying process the potential customer is.
At the bottom of the chart are details of the organisational levels that are involved in the process at each stage – right up to director and board level. You will notice that there are several levels involved and as the job titles involved demonstrate decisions are being increasingly made at director and board level

Worth noting is the that process does not end once the purchase, or decision is made. It is a full project lifecycle approach that includes implementation, testing, launch and post launch review.

A Fundamental Shift in the Buyer-Seller Relationship
What are the implications for vendors selling to this organisation, or others like it? Well there are many. What the above process demonstrates is a fundamental shift in the buyer – seller relationship, no less.

The vendor must build the relationship earlier (before the process is underway) and at a higher level in the buying organisation. The vendor must demonstrate how they can provide unique information and insights in building the business case, gathering requirements and scoping the solution. The vendor must help the buying organisation through its own process, not theirs.

When you see the process involved in the decision to buy what you are selling, then suddenly your job as vendor becomes clearer.

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