Ray Collis

The Ultimate ‘NO’ and How to Overcome It

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Few people would accuse those in procurement roles as being ‘yes men’. But perhaps a direct ‘no’ is less common than people think. Those in procurement and finance have found a more effective way of stopping buyers (and those who want to sell to them) in their tracks. It is to ask for a cost-benefit analysis or a business case. In so doing they put a serious burden of justification (or proof) on managers who want to spend the organization’s money.

burden of proof on buyers


Everybody Get’s Audited!

Increasingly nobody is immune from the need to justify their planned buying decisions. A clear example of this was the planned purchase of Bio-hazard equipment by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the second half of 2015. Now you would imagine that no bureaucrat in finance or procurement would dare intervene in a decision to buy something so politically sensitive as equipment to prevent a biological terrorist attack, but that is exactly what happened when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) intervened.

Everybody gets audited

A report by the office didn’t say that a need did not exist. But as KNPR news reported it found ‘no basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system’. That was a defacto ‘no’ – one that is almost impossible to refute.


The New ‘No’!

Asking for a cost-benefits analysis is a powerful way of saying ‘no’. But it is not just the ‘good guys’ that have their buying decisions audited. For example a review of internal al-Queda correspondence by the BBC showed its leadership seeking justification for the purchase of office equipment by other senior terrorist figures.



The message is – everybody gets audited. So don’t be surprised when it happens to you. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, then having that justification ready is vital to your success.

Be Ready for ‘Why Buy?’ Question

Procurement has known for some time that the easiest way to stop or delay spending is to ask the ‘Why Buy?’ question. It is a question that can stomp even the seller who is most knowledgeable of product benefits or skilled in objection handling.


That is because justifying a purchase decision goes far beyond the product message, or solutions selling. It requires building a business case and that is something that many sellers struggle to do. Not just because they can’t but because they need a particularly close relationship with the buyer if they are to input to the business justification.  So the question is:

Why buy?


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