Trust Tip 15: Make the Purchasing Agent Your Client

Until three years ago, I had heard about it, but hadn’t yet seen it.

Then I saw the resume of a Fortune 100 Commodity Purchasing Manager. At the top, it said:

Manage the following Global Business Commodities:

  • control packaging
  • mailing & fulfillment
  • signage
  • design, printing & duplicating
  • sub-contract labor
  • consulting services
  • information technology services.

Wait a minute: consulting services? Along with signage? And Mailing & fulfillment? Does this mean the guy who buys signs and postage meters also handles negotiations with McKinsey?

Not quite. But directionally, yes.

There has been a trend to formalize, professionalize, depersonalize, whatever you want to call it, the buying of services. You’re finding much more involvement of purchasing departments, RFPs, 3rd party buyer consultants and the like.

What’s your first response when you’re told you have to go through purchasing? Usually, it’s “how do we comply minimally, while carefully end-running the purchasing guy to get back to my customer.”

Don’t do it. The purchasing department buyer is your new client. Treat him or her as such.

Look at it from his point of view. Management has asked him to manage costs, while maintaining quality. 80% of the message is about costs. But he’s savvy enough to know that if he goes with a low quality choice, his internal users will never let him hear the end of it.

So how does it affect him when a potential buyer tries the end-run on him?

Don’t you be the one who tries it. Be the one who respects him.

Treat him as the new client. Understand his needs. Listen to what he wants. Don’t pull the switcheroo, give him what he asks for.

Offer advice without being asked—but only if it’s useful to him. Suggest that you offer some free ideas: and that he solicit ideas from your competitors too.

Client focus beats self-focus. R espect the new rules of the game. If you do that, at the very least you’ll get a fair shake. More likely, you’ll get a chance to demonstrate more added value.

That’s how you create trust in the new game. And that’s good for both parties.