If you feel guarded when you are talking to a salesperson… you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve been burned when someone used information you shared to manipulate you, or you are slow to trust someone whose goal seems to be reaching into your wallet.
But the “make-the-sale-no-matter-what” image of a salesperson only applies to a few scoundrels. In most cases, the goal when you’re buying is congruent with the salesperson’s goal: to determine whether it’s a good fit, as quickly as possible.
To that end, these guidelines can help you communicate efficiently to a salesperson, whether it’s formally in writing (such as in the context of an RFP) or spoken in-person:
1.Briefly explain your organization, your plans for growth, and your culture. If you want your vendors to see you as more than a number, educate them.
2.Identify the results you are looking for; why you are shopping (or conducting an RFP) and why you are including the specific vendor in your search. If you haven’t already laid it out, explain your problem as well as you can.
3.For any quantifiable product, provide volume estimates for several years forward to imply the size of the opportunity. Remember, to get the best vendor, product, and pricing, it’s in the buyer’s interest to “sell” the opportunity to the salesperson.
4.State that you reserve the right to award business at any time without notification. Just because you met with them doesn’t mean they are entitled to any particular process – or the chance to revise their prices three times.
5.Give them an opportunity – within a specified timeframe – to follow up with specific questions so they can craft the best proposal.
While we’re at it, here are a few things to be silent on:
Do NOT provide budget information or historic spending information.
Do NOT provide names of incumbent vendors, or other companies you are talking with. (If they ask, you can flip it and ask them: “Who else should we be talking to?”)
Do NOT commit to a timeline, or announce the opportunity to improve pricing. If they don’t start off with their best-and-final offer to get your business, they risk losing out.
You’re still the buyer; you have the money and you control the process. By giving the seller the opportunity to provide their best proposal and pricing, you are helping them and helping yourself.