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Sales and Procurement Need to Engage in Genuine Conversations with John Barrows, Ep #126

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Sales and procurement view each other as enemies—but don’t work to change that mindset. Both sides feel that the other doesn’t understand what they do and they have no empathy for each other. My guest today agrees that this needs to change. Sales and procurement need to start having real and genuine conversations.

In this episode of Negotiations Ninja, John Barrows joins me to start the conversation. Listen along as we chat about preparing for an impending market correction, the animosity between procurement and sales, and how to facilitate open dialogue between the two.

John has been in sales his entire career. He was VP of Sales & Marketing with Thrive Networks and Director of Sales & Training with Basho Technologies. Seven years ago, he launched JBarrows Sales Training. He’s passionate about providing customized training using proven sales techniques to help salespeople drive results.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:53] John Barrows jumps back on the podcast
  • [2:43] John’s background and business
  • [4:54] The interplay between procurement and sales
  • [11:03] Two things sales teams should do to prep for a correction
  • [18:23] It’s time to change the mode of communication
  • [27:13] Understanding payment terms from a procurement viewpoint
  • [30:47] The #1 thing John wishes procurement people knew about salespeople
  • [32:25] John’s Book: I Want to Be in Sales When I Grow Up

Addressing the elephant in the room

John says it like it is: we’ve become fat, dumb, and happy. Companies have scaled up and expect that the trajectory the market has been on will continue. That isn’t going to be the case. He thinks one area that companies neglect is procurement. Salespeople view them as a pain, a group that we never get to talk to or meet with. They don’t know how to deal with them in a way that’s tactical and strategic.

John used to have the mindset of “screw procurement”—they’re the enemy. They force us to shave 20% off the top and we lose deals because of them. His daydream was to develop someone in Sales who was granted enough power to squash procurement and push deals through. He’s since realized that procurement isn’t looking to shave the deal down to the bone. They are still responsible for the quality of the product and it’s in their best interest to present something that still holds value.

John points out that the key is to get procurement involved in the process earlier so they have some context when making decisions. Keep listening to hear our conversation around the topic.

The two things sales teams can do to prep for a market correction

With the impending market correction, procurement is just waiting for the bloodbath that is to come. So what can salespeople do to prepare? John shares two things he believes sales teams can start doing:

The first is documenting the journey: Document the discussion you’ve had with a prospect from day one. Start with a ballpark rate card. In the next phase you talk about licenses, contracts, etc. and document how you adjusted from one price to the next. At the end of the process, you can hand this documentation to procurement. Procurements job is to push for a better price, so if you’ve shown them you’ve already done some of that legwork it makes their job easier. They can already see where cuts have been made.

The second is to get procurement involved early: Sales reps get angry because they negotiate and agree only to get kicked over to someone in procurement who doesn’t understand the value of what’s been done. So instead of waiting until the end, find a way to get procurement involved early.

Doing these two things can alleviate some of the tension that exists in the relationship. Keep listening to hear some of the more detailed conversations you can have to bridge the gap and build a relationship with either side.

It’s time to change the conversation

If you are going to start seeing each other as an ally and not an enemy, you need to start having genuine conversations. Reach out to someone in procurement and invite them to lunch or coffee. Take time to ask them leading questions: When do you get frustrated with sales reps? How do they piss you off and why? Ask questions that give you insight into their viewpoint. The goal is to find a genuine understanding of each other’s roles.

Procurement has a desire for genuine communication and sincere interaction—but they don’t want a sales pitch. Procurement can see upwards of 200 sales presentations a year. If you haven’t taken the time to understand my needs and wants we won’t be friends. Focus on being conversational and genuinely interested.

There is a lack of empathy on both sides of the equation, or they wouldn’t have such a negative view of each other. John and I discuss other reasons sales and procurement struggle to communicate, so keep listening.

Change the negative perceptions surround sales

John said something that resonated with me: “When sales is done right it’s the greatest profession in the world. When done wrong—it’s the worst”. The perception of sales is that it is not an educated profession, but what you default to when what you planned to do didn’t pan out. Which, in many instances, can be the case. People also say that you ‘can’t teach sales’ or that you either ‘have it or you don’t’ but John believes that’s garbage. He emphasizes that it is more of a science than an art.

He recently wrote a children’s book “I Want to Be in Sales When I Grow Up!” to help change the perspective of salespeople. He wants to elevate the profession to one that children can study and learn to make money in. Another goal is to encourage more women to consider sales roles.

We both wholeheartedly believe that more conversations need to happen between sales and procurement. We also need to change the viewpoints we have of each other to succeed professionally and build relationships. Listen to the whole episode for our candid conversation around the topic.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with John Barros

Connect With Mark

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