How to deal with the professional buyer


Today, many professional buyers are willing to share control and enter meaningful, collaborative discussion about products and solutions, but others pose a much greater challenge to selling lowest total cost solutions. While all buyers bring their own set of challenges to the negotiating table, some take it to a whole new level.

The challenging buyer:

  • Buying teams where each member of the buying team has a different agenda, priority and/or need
  • Buyers who know as much about you, your solution and your competitors as you do — often more
  • Very well trained, demanding and savvy buyers
  • Buyers who expect sales people to demonstrate quickly and effectively their value added through their ability to help the buyer meet business, personal and financial goals

Are you dealing with a trained professional buyer or a business buyer?

While there are instances of business buyers being trained to become professional buyers, there is usually a clear distinction between the two beasts.

A business buyer tends to get more emotionally involved with individuals and certain companies, often determining which supplier to work with based on relationships and personalities.

For sales people, the business buyer relationship is a tempting one to nurture, and an easy, comfortable one to build.

On the other hand, a professional buyer, as part of a decision-making team, is a procurement professional who brings goods and services into an organisation. A professional buyer tends not to focus on a single supplier, but determines alternatives, creating a duopoly to give them negotiation power when faced with multiple supplier options. These professional buyers follow a disciplined process that enables them to meet very clear metrics.

What strategies will professional buyers use?

Professional buyers know that the more they ask for, the more they get. One top procurement professional admitted: “I ask for it because I may get it. You wouldn’t believe how often I chuckle to myself afterwards, thinking ‘I never thought I’d get it, but I did’”. 

Professional buyers:

  • Have a plan and are much better prepared than selling professionals
  • Are very clear on their goals – and are willing to communicate them
  • Have a key focus to pay the right price and get the maximum value in ROI
  • Will debundle your offer so they pay only for what really adds value to their organization
  • Have other options
  • Try to commoditize your solution, demonstrating how a service or product is the same as everybody else’s, with the only differentiator being price.
  • Will challenge the sales team to explain why buyers should pay more for the same solution.

How to deal with challenging buyers

A lot of the time, professional buyers use tactics: 

  • good cop–bad cop
  • out of time
  • delay
  • commoditization
  • sole decision maker

But sales people need to understand that tactics don’t win negotiations, and fighting a tactic with a tactic gets you nowhere. Tactics create win-lose scenarios, rather than innovative agreements that meet both your needs and customer needs both long and short term.

So, how to deal with those tactics

  • Planning and thorough preparation will give you confidence, credibility and courage
  • Stay calm and don’t take it personally they are just doing their job
  • Find a way that helps them win – demonstrate how your solution contributes to their metrics
  • Really engage the buyer and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions during the selling and the negotiation process

Top 3 negotiation tips to use with professional buyers

  1. Negotiation is a dialogue. Use planned (but not scripted) dialogues to help you learn about and expand buyer needs, expand the buying criteria to your advantage, and identify ways you can add value for the buyer both personally and professionally.
  2. Prepare your pitch with a clear focus on key measures. This will give you personal power and add to your courage in challenging situations.
  3. Handle the situation rationally. Don’t take any of it personally. Leverage the natural byproduct of tension found in any procurement dialogue.

What sales people should never do

  1. Don’t wing it! Never go in to negotiations unprepared and assuming you know the person on the other side of the table. Don’t think that having been in the same situation before will help, either.
  2. Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, it’s about the deal. They are only doing their jobs.
  3. Don’t try to shortcut their process – they have the process for a reason and they need to follow it.

How should sales people behave with professional buyers?

Most sales people feel the pressure, tension and stress inherent in any high stakes negotiations and don’t like it. This loss of courage pushes them to fall back into a dangerous mindset, out of fear of losing the deal or damaging the relationship.

But actually what sales people should do when faced with tension, stress or pressure is to welcome the reactions and know they have the skills to do what makes them truly effective, even with the most demanding buyers.

Of course, this is far easier said than done. Most people – in sales or not – revert to one of two comfort zones: flight or fight.

In flight mode, sales people will give away too much, too soon and leak value.

When they fight, they dig their heels in and push an issue to win an argument, creating adversarial relationships and win-lose agreements. 

What to do with an unrealistic offer 

Too many sales people worry about walking away, thinking they can’t afford to lose the deal.

But no deal is better than a bad deal.

The key to success is being able to walk away, but still leave the door open to continue the negotiation at a later date. Remember, professional buyers have been taught that the more they ask, the more they get. They know that most sellers are uncomfortable with the tension inherent in any most negotiations. Buyers will test your strength and confidence, so it is up to you to create, shape and sell value, proving yours is the lowest total cost solution with the highest value and ROI.  

At GPG, we have a very clear focus: Through highly interactive, highly tailored behaviour change initiatives using real world client simulations, role plays and exercises, you will gain the skills and confidence to differentiate you and your solution, demonstrate value and ROI, and build stronger relationships in the process.

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