In the world of technology sales, there are many hurdles one has to overcome to be successful. In landing the big deal, any elephant hunter will undoubtedly tell you that many times along the way, you will be faced by the wild beast known as procurement. You have gotten through the door, you have pitched to the product people, bowed to the gods of IT and now you are faced with the nameless, faceless, ruthless, heartless procurement person, a person who wakes up every day shrouded in a cloud of indifference to everything and anything with the exception of price. Overnight, the metamorphosis takes place. As if in a Kafkaesque dream, you went to bed as a sales professional, a strategic partner, a technology problem solver, only to awake as a dirty vendor.
Relationship development, be damned! Value propositions rendered worthless! All the account development strategy techniques learned in countless sales training classes all for naught. Where is Dale Carnegie when you need him most? Tony Robbins never told you about this. What happened to Ben Franklin?
PowerPoint quickly becomes useless and Excel becomes your only weapon in defending yourself. The sales predator has now become prey. Here are some tips on surviving dirty-vendor syndrome.
1) Never Take It Personally: Lunches, dinners, Rangers tickets, rounds of golf, therapy sessions with prospects (yes, sales people are like bartenders -- we hear it all), multiple meetings, internal battles for resources and management approval for what you thought were already good discounts all mean nothing. Your previous efforts are worth nothing; you feel worthless. You’re NOT! You are now truly in the game. Keep your game face on. Now is not the time to lose your cool. If the procurement beast sees you sweat, blink, or even cry, you are dead. Stay the course; it’s business, not personal. Dig down for your inner Michael Corleone.
2) Call in Air Support: Do not go it alone. If the U.S. Marines can call in for air support, so can you. Lean on product people, sales management and even finance people within your organization to help battle the beast. A third party will be more objective and, dare I say, dispassionate about the process. You may need to counter indifference with indifference. It is impossible for you to be indifferent having spent weeks, months and, in some cases, years, cultivating a business relationship that has brought you to this point. You need a “yin to your yang.” Get some help from your resources.
3) Know When to Say No: The most difficult word for a sales person to hear is “no.” It is often the most difficult word for them to say as well. We live in a world where our main goal in life is getting to “yes.” Even if we hear “no,” it really means “not yet.” Saying no can be very difficult. Change the dynamic of the metamorphosis from sales person to dirty vendor and make it sales person to business person. The procurement person will push you to the brink, but learning when to say “no” will help you push back.
Believe it or not, the more you are confronting the procurement beast, the more successful you are becoming. Only large enterprises have procurement teams, and they can be very elusive. One needs support from business and technology people within the enterprise even to rate an audience with the all-knowing Lords of Pricing.
Maybe in my next life I will come back as a procurement person.