Get better at buying

There's incessant pressure on B2B sellers to get better at it. The boss wants the sales force to figure out how to approach, educate, close and support big companies and get them to buy their products and services.

But what about the big companies (not to mention the smaller ones) that are doing the buying? Ruth Stevens reports that the typical company with more than 1,000 employees has, on average, 21 different people involved in each sale of over $25,000.

Having made sales (when I was younger and more foolish) to ten of the thirty biggest companies in the country, I can testify that 21 might be an understatement. The typical big company's org chart is a mystery, the process is a mystery and there never seems to be an end to the roster of meetings and people. It's almost as though these companies don't want to buy anything.

Of course, the salesperson isn't the enemy, and buying from them isn't charity. The transaction happens because it benefits both sides, yet the byzantine maze, lack of information and endless circle is a real barrier to success for both sides.

First, this is screamingly inefficient. Second, it drives away the great opportunities, leaving the companies with no one but the sales-focused, uber-patient companies willing to put up with 21 different people and a million meetings.

If you want to increase productivity and discover new opportunities, you're going to need better vendors. One way to do that is to streamline your buying process and let the folks selling to you know how it works. They're not the enemy. In fact, they're your best source for off-the-shelf improvements and innovation you can start using tomorrow.

Whoever buys the best, wins.

Your purchasing department shouldn't be a backwater… it ought to be an engine of innovation for the rest of the organization.

I'd start by reaching out to companies that might be able to help your company. Give them an org chart. Give them an overview of the best way to sell to you. Issue a newsletter outlining regular news about successful sales and how they were made. Reward your employees when they help a new vendor make a sale that really benefits you. Hassle your employees if they hassle or lie to your vendors.

If a vendor asks, "are you serious about buying from us," the answer should either be, "yes," or perhaps, "no, thank you." But we're all too busy for power games.