Ray Collis

Finding Yourself In The Procurement Sandwich?

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You can see the finishing line, and your sponsor is telling you they are ready to buy.  So, it is that the many months of groundwork seem ready to pay off.

You had allowed (in your costings) for the discount that has been agreed and negotiation around terms has thankfully left your original proposal relatively intact. As loose ends are being tied down you slowly begin to relax with the purchase order in sight.

Procurement Sandwich

Then just when you think everything has been agreed, you get shown into another room.  You thought you had given a discount and that the terms were finalised.  Now, the whole deal is becoming untangled as you come face to face with procurement!

Because of their absence throughout the process, you assumed that procurement had little influence over the decision.  Now, that is being proven wrong.   Increasingly, the buying cycle is the filling, with procurement making the sandwich.  It starts the process and ends it too.  This has the potential to really throw-off the salesperson.

Purchasing may know little about the detail – at times frighteningly little, thereby making it appears as though the months of relationship building, information gathering and though negotiation have been set at naught.  Items agreed many months ago, are being reopened and the certainty is evaporating fast.

The belated involvement of purchasing means the special relationship developed is replaced with a stony-faced bureaucracy.  Indeed the salesperson may even feel as though he, or she is being treated like a cold calling salesperson who has just walked in off the street.

The procurement specialist is coming at it fresh, the salesperson after a long sales cycle is not.  Un-encumbered by the detail, or the relationship, purchasing has a logical black and white view of the deal.  The salesperson on the other hand is likely to have an emotional bias – something that is added to by a mix of tiredness, disappointment and even frustration.

There is little talk about win-win now, with procurement adopting a narrow minded focus on price and related variables. Purchasing clearly has the agenda of reducing supplier costs and perhaps even a blanket target discount to achieve.  Most disappointing of all – your sponsor seems powerless to help you.  The question is ‘how much of a bruising can you take before the deal becomes

unattractive?’  The answer depends on the degree to which you have prepared for the procurement sandwich.

Most organisations that are serious about buying are likely to use the procurement sandwich.  Indeed, it is unrealistic for sellers to expect anything else.   With this in mind, here are some tips to help you prepare more effectively for the last minute entry of purchasing:

  • Engage with procurement earlier, don’t leave it until the end.   In addition, encourage your sponsor to engage with procurement at each step of the buying process.
  • Put a face on procurement, make sure they don’t remain faceless bureaucrats in your mind, or that you are seen by them as simply another salesperson.
  • Talk to other suppliers about the buying process in the target account, understanding what it is that happens when procurement get involved.
  • Be prepared to negotiate on price, but take care to follow the principles of good negotiation. Don’t negotiate on price until you meet with procurement, otherwise you risk having to negotiate on your previously negotiated position.
  • It is not over till it is over.  Be prepared to fight one more round.  Stay fresh – right up to the end.  Hold something in reserve.
  • It can be helpful to get somebody else from your team to front the negotiation with procurement; this can provide a fresh impetus, but also a better negotiation stance.
  • Bring procurement up to speed.  It is important that you (hopefully with the aid of your sponsor) make efforts to get procurement to understand more of the complexity of the deal, including such factors as the economics for both parties, the key metrics, the extent to which the solution has been tailored to the buyer’s specific needs and requirements, the extent of engagement between buyer and seller during the buying process, and so on.

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