Caveat Vendor: Buyers, Take Back the Sale!

By Steve Weissman posted 09-19-2013 10:35


Have you ever spent time with a vendor sales rep to explain your needs and your situation, only to figure out that he or she thinks you’re either a buffoon or a necessary evil?

If you are one of the lucky ones, you figure this out before you end up buying that particular solution and paying for it through the likes of unfavorable terms or bad support. But too often the reverse is true, and the way to avoid it is relatively simple: you must take back the sale by driving the process, being clear about what you are looking for and being sure you are being taken seriously.

I write these words after learning of a couple of particularly negative experiences a client had with would-be vendors:

  • Story 1: A vendor salesperson, told by my client that the project budget was firmly fixed and could not be extended to cover the vendor’s product, said, “I have people who can show you how it will pay for itself over the next six years.” No acknowledgment of the client’s reality, no offer of special terms, just a sense of condescension,  as in “I know something you don't know, and when you know it too, you’ll be happy to give me the money.”
  • Story 2: A different vendor’s salesperson told my client, already a current customer, “I already sold you something, so you're not important to me” and abruptly turned his attention to the prospect standing at the welcome desk of the trade show booth where the two were talking. Slam, bam, thank you man, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. (You might damage the door.)

The good news for my client is that he's a prepared and savvy fellow; as such, he had no trouble reminding the offending reps that he controls their access to his budget and suggesting they might want to treat him accordingly. But many potential buyers either don’t know how or don’t know it’s OK to do this too, so they simply sit back and take it. In my experience, the reasons boil down to (1) not wanting to appear rude, (2) not wanting to appear ignorant, or (3) actually being ignorant.

I would never counsel rudeness, as it rarely leads to a positive outcome. But I applaud my client for standing up and being counted, because he is, after all, the one at the center of the process. He knows what he needs, he knows how much he has to spend, he knows that life without post-sale support is not an option. What these reps have forgotten is that without him, and without his money, their respective vendors have no business and they have no job.

So I say to you, gentle reader, take a page from my client's playbook and take back your own sale process. Understand well your requirements and limitations so ignorance (imagined or real) is not a factor, communicate them clearly to the reps you are dealing with, and don't be afraid to remind them who's boss. While you may not be able to change their perception that you are a necessary evil to them, you at least can make it known that you are no buffoon.

#vendor #BusinessProcessManagement #selection