“What are some ways to speed along the procurement process?”[This is an abbreviated version of my complete answer to this question on Quora. Click here for my complete answer.]
1. Make sure you are selling to the correct person.
If a senior manager is bought into your solution, there should be no delays. Take the extreme case – If Tim Cook at Apple decided that he wanted to use a new vendor for iPhone production, do you think it would take a long time to have Apple’s procurement team approve the decision?
2. Take control of the procurement process
Ask for the names and contact info (email AND phone) for the legal, accounting, and vendor management personnel from your prospective client once you reach the “handshake” milestone. This prevents the additional layer of communication from you to your buyer to the internal team, then…
3. Host a “Procurement Kick-off” conference call with your prospect and their legal rep, accounts payable manager, and vendor manager.
Position this call to your buyer like this:
“I’m sure that your legal/procurement team will have questions of our legal/procurement people. To expedite that, let’s have a 15-minute conference call between you and your team and me for an introduction.”
During this call, ask these questions about their process:
- “What is the normal turnaround time for this sort of process?” This will help you manage your expectations. Sometimes, it simply takes 3-4 months from your buyer. That’s just the way they do business.
- “What are the 2-3 stumbling blocks that slow the approval process when you are setting up new vendors?” This will provide you with land mines to avoid.
- “Do you have a Master Vendor Agreement that you would prefer we use instead of me sending our SOW?” Chances are that your prospect has spent many hours and lots of dollars protecting themselves and the odds that your home-grown SOW matches up with their requires is pretty small. Start with their template to avoid over-zealous red-lining of your document by their team. You can always all Appendices and Exhibits to their Master Agreement to include key information from your SOW.
Schedule an update phone conference once a week or every two weeks at the onset of the procurement process.
Write a summary email of action steps and expected completion dates at the onset of the procurement process, then use this as a working document during your scheduled conference calls.
4. PICK UP THE PHONE (yes, caps intentional!)
Once you are in a back-and-forth banter with the prospect’s legal team on changes and red-lining, whenever you receive an inbound email with suggested changes, PICK UP THE PHONE and call the person immediately to clarify.
If you fall into the email trap, by the time you type a response and send it, your counter-party might be gone for the day or on to the next project. You are probably 1 of 20 projects for that person. When they send the email, you know they’re thinking about you – everything is fresh in their mind.
(Not to mention the personal relationship you’ll develop by actually talking with someone vs cold emails…)
5. Consider providing your service to your client in parallel to the formal approval.
This might include account set up, training, and other assistance that will achieve lock in and thus provide an incentive for your prospect to push the approvals through.
6. Begin the “Business Sale” during the “Technical Sale.”
This concept is described by Brian Burns in “Selling in a New Market Space.” (www.amazon.com/Selling-New-Marke…)