Buying Nirvana: Why Can’t Buyers & Sellers Work In Harmony?
Shouldn’t the spirit of cooperation and interdependence that exists between buyer and seller after the order is won be present throughout the buying process?
“Why does choosing a supplier have to be so difficult?” asked one business-unit head. “I don’t like the closed-doors, hands-off approach to dealing with potential vendors – especially when we’re going to be expecting so much from the chosen vendor once we have made our selection.”
“I believe the spirit of cooperation between buyer and supplier must exist throughout the tender process, and not just at the award stage” proclaimed the manager, who had previously worked on the vendor side of the table.
From Dependence to Interdependence
The buying revolution requires a more advanced, mature and sophisticated relationship than before between buyer and seller. It requires a partnership of equals, built around a steady progression from dependence to independence, and onwards towards interdependence. It means replacing the adult/child relationship that so often exists between buyers and sellers with a more mature parent-to-parent relationship.
“Interdependence between buyer and seller has to be the ultimate goal…”
It’s clear that more and more buyers are moving away from a situation of dependence on suppliers; they are now proud of their new-found independence, and are increasingly using buying processes and procedures to preserve it.
Above all else, interdependence between buyer and seller has to be the ultimate goal. To paraphrase one manager we spoke to, if two parties intend to enter into a successful marriage, there firstly needs to be a lot of courting. However, the nature of today’s buying has greatly marginalized this vital courting stage in the relationship between buyer and seller.
Independence Isn’t Everything
Independence is not the best path for buyers to take. After all, the buyer whose requirements definition, business logic or solution definition remains constant – in spite of interaction with a host of suppliers – has failed to take advantage of an important pool of applied learning. That is to say that, while the buyer may have been involved in a few such projects in the past, the seller is likely to have been involved in a great many more.
Based on this wider and more diverse experience, the seller is in a unique position to share his/her learning – in other words, to help the buyer in refining requirements, avoiding repeating mistakes made by others, and identifying shortcuts.
Buyers and sellers are interdependent – something that implies confidence and strength, as opposed to weakness on either part. They must work together in the genuine search for a win/win – that is, in the exploitation for mutual advantage of real synergies. However, this will inevitably require new levels of trust from buyers towards sellers; it’s also going to mean that sellers must stop selling, and start helping.
The Challenge of Helping Buyers to Buy
The challenge facing today’s ‘me too!’ sellers is trying to find a new basis for competition – in other words, helping the buyer to buy. Sound easy? Well, it isn’t. Here are some of the challenges it entails:
- Making the transition from salesperson to expert, and ultimately to trusted advisor
- Moving beyond features and benefits selling to connect with the buyer’s strategy, to quantify your proposition in terms of the buyer’s key metrics and input to the buyer’s business case
- Helping the buyer to establish and communicate his/her compelling business case, as opposed to just communicating your competitive advantages
- Generating demand, as opposed to simply finding it. This means getting involved before buying criteria and budgets have been set, which requires replacing prequalification with marketing and, in particular, processes for the nurturing of prospects to sales readiness.