Sellers Must Play By The Buyer's Rules


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There are many things about modern buying that frustrate, even annoy, salespeople. Top of the list is buying rules and procedures. In this whitepaper we will look at rules and procedures from the buyer's perspective. In doing so, we will see that sellers should learn to play by the rules.

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Sellers Must Play By The Buyer's Rules

  1. 1. Retail Price: $9.99Frustrated By The Formalities of Buyers? Why Sellers Must Start:Playing By The Rules There are many things about modern buying that frustrate, “…sellers don’t even annoy, salespeople. But top of the list is buying rules understand why and procedures. But this frustration is futile, even counter- productive. the buyer’s rules are needed…” In this whitepaper we will look at rules and procedures from the buyer’s perspective. In doing so, we will see why sellers should stop resisting the inevitable and learn to play by the rules.
  2. 2. Complaining About The Rules?Sellers regularly complain of buying procedures that result in morepaperwork, uncertainty and cost. Indeed, buyers tell us that sellersoften vent their frustration at the requirements of buyingprocess/rules – something that can amount to a red card offence.This happens not only because these sellers dont understand whyrules are necessary, but cannot empathise with what the buyers mustdo to get the purchase approved. But what is the point in sellersgetting frustrated or annoyed with buyers who are simply doing theirjob?Rules Are A Fact Of Life!Sellers shouldnt feel so hard done by - they are not the only onesaffected by the rules and procedures that govern buying in largeorganizations. “Why get annoyed withA senior public sector buyer provides a window onto a day in the life buyers who areof a buyer bound by rules. Lets let her explain in her own words: simply doing ‘The number of calls to my office has doubled or tripled in the past their job?” 12 months’. ‘We have in effect become a procurement helpline!’ ‘People from right across the organisation ring up to ask ‘Can we do this?’, or ‘How do we do that?’ with respect to a purchase they must make. ‘They want to know what rules are involved, which ones can be bent and which ones cannot. The only problem is that they often don’t like what I have to say.’ ‘Some ring up looking for forgiveness… they are half way through a buying process but skipped a vital step. They are looking for absolution – an ‘…it will be ok this time, just don’t do it again…’ The result is one of disappointment. ‘P a g e |2© The ASG Group 2011
  3. 3. ‘Is that a new regulation?’ the callers will ask. ‘No’ I answer ‘it is not new… it is just that it has not been consistently applied in the past’. In recent years our budget increased annually and there was considerable autonomy over spending. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way, perhaps too far. From buying toilet paper to computer systems you must follow the rules!‘ All this can mean that procurement does not win you too many friends, but that is the new realities of buying (particularly in the public sector) she concluded.As this example shows; the rules impact on buyer and selleralike.The Rules Must Be Obeyed!Just how important are the rules to buyers? Well, the wordsspoken by a newly appointed University President to hisHead of Procurement provide a clue: ...your number one job is to keep me out of the law courts.The job of the procurement manager, although narrowly defined, wasclear. Given that lawyers accounted for up to 30% of the attendanceat a recent buyer symposium, the University Presidents concern foravoiding litigation would appear to be well placed.‘There is often a zero tolerance and zero risk approach to buying,where adhering to the rules is more important than saving moneyexclaimed a central bank buyer who had just moved from the privatesector. For those more familiar with public buying this isunderstandable.P a g e |3© The ASG Group 2011
  4. 4. Here is a sample of the paperwork from a University procurementteam – in case the professional buyer was in any doubt the form spellsit out – it asks for the name and number of the accountable person.‘If applying the rules is your job then that is what you are going to do,right?’ said the author of a forthcoming best practice buyingguidebook. ‘Put it this way’ he continued; ‘the main risk is not a sub-optimal choice, or the wrong decision, it is failing to adhere to therules’.The procurement consultant added: ‘If the wrong choice is made, butthe right rules are applied then all is forgiven... You can pay 5, 10, or15 times more for it and even make the newspaper headlines, but aslong as you follow the rules then you are safe.‘Rules Pose Challenges For Buyers Too!‘The rules pose challenges for buyers too’ said another procurementmanager, adding that there is no question but they increase the costand complexity of buying. This is particularly the case in the publicarena, where the burden of regulation is causing high levels ofconfusion, even frustration for many buyers.In the public sector in particular, there are aspects of the job thathave become quite painful in recent years said one long serving public “The main risk isprocurement manager. Before life was easy – you could pick whoever you wanted. Now everything that you do is in fear of possible not a sub-future litigation he added. optimal choice, but notA consultant with one of Europe’s largest procurement consultingcompanies went even further to say; the rules have taken the fun out following theof buying. rules.”P a g e |4© The ASG Group 2011
  5. 5. Buyers Must Impose The Rules Without Favour!Salespeople may struggle to understand the bureaucratic zeal of themodern buyer, but so too do buyer’s own internal colleagues. Indeedas the speaker at a procurement conference said recentlyprocurement is often seen (in large organizations) as the auger – asbeing inflexible, bureaucratic and unforgiving in the application of therules.It can be difficult to tell a manager that he or she must follow a set ofrules and procedures explained another procurement manager.However as procurement manager, you have to stand your ground, inthe face of both internal and external pressures he added.Even though managers may have their favourites in terms of suppliersyou have to ensure that the process remains fair and transparent. Toan incumbent supplier the thaw in relations in the run up to a bid cancome as a shock. But ending cosy relationships between managersand suppliers is the job of procurement. In the case of long standingsupplier relationships you have to ensure that a certainamount of professional distance is maintained heconcluded.Blaming The Buyer Is Unfair!Most buyers feel that blaming procurement for having tofollow rules was unfair, even facile. ‘With enormouspressure on procurement to deliver savings and cut costs,buying is clearly under the spotlight. But you cannot expectprocurement to deliver results if the rules laid down arenot going to be followed’ said one prominent buyer.P a g e |5© The ASG Group 2011
  6. 6. Buying Risks Require Buying Rules!Buying rules are the antidote to buyer risk. The regulations thatgovern buying in the public sector and buying process in the privatesector are designed to manage the risky business of spendingsomebody elses money.Salespeople inevitably get frustrated by vacillating buyers and delayedor stalled buying decisions. However, impatient to close the sale theycan easily fail to appreciate the importance of buyer risk. That is buyerrisk on many levels, including:  The risk that the buying decision will not get sanctioned.  The risk an internal stakeholder will with-hold support.  The risk that the purchase will lose out to another project competing for the same resources.  The risk for the sponsor of making the wrong decision. “Rules are  The risk of choosing the wrong vendor. designed toMost procurement managers are poor risk takers and there is a manage the riskreason for that said one manager. That is because you may have of spendingbought millions of pounds with great savings, chosen hundreds of money badly…”good suppliers, but it is the bad deal that you are going to beremembered for he added.More to the point buyers must act today knowing that their actionscould result in a FOI enquiry in 6 months time, an internal audit, or alegal action explained another procurement head. These are thereasons why buyers so zealously follow the rules.P a g e |6© The ASG Group 2011
  7. 7. The Science Behind This PaperThese insights and tools are based on:1. Buyer Research – our ground-breaking research into how modern buying decisions are made and the implications for sellers.2. Best Practice Research – Over 1 million pages of best practice sales case studies, books and research.3. Common Practice Research – Our peer comparison benchmark of 1,000s of your competitors and peers.The Sales Engine® and SellerNav are trademarks of The ASG Group.The entire contents of this document are copyright of The ASG Group and cannot bereproduced in any format without written permission.Want help in tackling your sales challenges? Contactenquiries@theASGgroup.comwww.theASGgroup.comP a g e |7© The ASG Group 2011