The Buyer’s Perspective Part 3 by Bill Levell

Bill Levell

Bill is Director of courses for ISM training and uses his industry experience to tailor our courses for the Middle East market

The buyer’s perspective is an important area for sales people wishing to enhance their sales process and sales skills to understand. Over the last 3 weeks we have been exploring some perspectives that the buyer may be considering when looking to enter into a business relationship. Here are the final key areas. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 they are archived in the Sales discussion area.

A. Change management

The management of change, both within the agreement and in a wider sense as part of business change programs, is a key issue. Suppliers on strategic service contracts must have a positive approach to change and show evidence of their capabilities in managing it.

B. Service provision and management

  1.    Is there evidence that the supplier has recognised capabilities in relation to service management delivery?
  2.   Are the supplier’s plans for service management adequate, covering resources/capacity/workload, performance, service continuity, charging and ordering, exception reporting and feedback, incident handling, change control, etc?
  3. How will these plans relate to other parts of the supply chain?

C. Resource management

  1.  Does the supplier demonstrate a mature approach to resource risks and contingency management, e.g. in terms of established succession plans?
  2. Is there evidence that the supplier has the necessary processes to ensure that there are sufficient resources available to meet the business workload demands?
  3. Does the supplier have adequate availability plans / future utilisation profiles to demonstrate that key resources can be made available to meet customer service needs?

D. Capacity planning and management

Has the supplier formulated a capacity plan at the appropriate level of detail, taking into account workload predictions, upgrades, and predicted changes?

E. Business continuity and contingency plans

Are the supplier’s plans for contingency and business continuity adequate and appropriate?

F. Strategic management

Does the supplier demonstrate a clear business strategy and vision of the future?Can the supplier’s strategy be progressed alongside the buyer’s strategy, to mutual benefit?

F. Risk management and risk transfer

For some contracts, the supplier’s ability and willingness to take on risk is a central concern. In such cases, evaluation should probe their understanding of and attitude towards the risks involved.

G. Supply chain management

Does the supplier’s proposal demonstrate how subcontractors and/or consortium members will be organised and managed?

H. Benefits management and delivery

The supplier should have a balanced approach to benefits, delivering those required and linking them with those they seek for themselves.

I. Relationship management

Is the supplier committed to communication and the principle of an open working relationship built on trust? How can they demonstrate this?

This concludes the series on the buyer’s perspective. In a future blog post we will be looking at the other side of the coin the seller’s perspective.


 

In part 2 of  the Buyer’s Perspective , Bill looks at some more key areas that a buyer may raise questions about – from whether your company aims are aligned to theirs to whether you  are able to establish the quality of your product. As a salesperson it is critical to understand their perspective before offering solutions.

4. Shared strategic aims

It is important to identify the supplier’s core business area(s), and whether the buyer’s requirement coincides with it. This will affect how important the contract would be to the supplier if they were to be successful. Consider the organisation’s strategic aims and those of the supplier, how they fit together and the areas where work is required to reconcile them.

Buyer's persperctive

Bill trains by raising questions and challenging you to find solutions through collaboration and simulated exercises

5. Culture

The compatibility between the business cultures of the customer and the supplier will be a key factor in determining the strength of the relationship and therefore the achievement of shared strategic aims.

6. Organisation and management

How does the supplier manage its own business? What tools does it use for quality management, financial management, performance management, contract management, risk management, change management etc?

7. Quality management

Does the supplier have a suitable quality management system and appropriate quality records? Does the organisation have a suitable quality policy and effective quality organisation? Is the supplier’s quality organisation and quality management system of a suitable standard, with demonstrable evidence of continuous service quality improvements in line with customer expectations?

8. Project and programme management

Can the supplier demonstrate experience and expertise in Project Management and/or Programme Management? How will the supplier interface with the project’s programme and project management procedures?

9. Proposed supplier organisation and project staffing

When the supplier’s capability to meet the buyer’s requirements has been established it will then be necessary to consider the organisation and resources the supplier intends to use to manage their responsibilities under any contract that may be awarded. Does the organisational structure of the supplier (or the supply chain they are proposing) enable them to meet the requirement, fulfil expectations of quality, and build a strong working relationship?

10.Technical understanding

Does the supplier’s proposal demonstrate full understanding of the requirement in all respects, or at least to the level you would expect pre-contract award? Does the supplier demonstrate full technical understanding of their own proposed solution?

11. Proposed management processes

Does the supplier’s proposal demonstrate their management expertise in processes relevant to the buyer’s requirements? Are the support systems that are in place adequate for the proposed arrangement? Does the supplier’s proposal have a suitable process for controlling changes in requirements?

The final key areas will be discussed next week in this comprehensive series on the Buyer’s perspective. Of course as Bill pointed out in Part 1 not all of these will be applicable during a given sales process , however they are food for thought along the journey to becoming a successful consultative seller.

At ISM Dubai, a course we often run in-house and cover during our selling skills course, is looking at a sale or negotiation from the buying perspective. This holistic approach needs to be understood by sales people  to  help drive their own success. In this three part blog Bill Levell will cover  buyer views comprehensively.

Buyers perspective

Bill , master of sales skills enjoying a quiet moment between activities

From the buyer’s perspective engaging with a potential supplier calls for detailed information gathering through whatever means are appropriate.

There are several key areas to explore in depth through desk research, asking questions and holding discussions to assess suppliers and their proposals in all relevant areas.
Here are some examples of these areas, not all are always essential, and there will be others which I have not listed which are industry/technology specific.

  1. Capability

Does the supplier’s staff have the skills and experience, including specialised technical knowledge that they will need to meet the requirement?

  1. Experience and track record

Past experience should be examined in sufficient detail to give confidence that the supplier has the right ability. This may include visits to customers of the supplier or to the supplier’s premises. The principal objective is to assess how much of the supplier’s experience is relevant to the buyer’s requirements and how they can back up their responses with evidence that they have provided similar solutions before. Questions like:

  1. Has the supplier fulfilled requirements of a similar type, scale and/or complexity before? If they have, was their performance satisfactory?
  2. What problems arose, and how will they be avoided on this contract?
  3. How well does the supplier’s experience and track record back up their proposal?
  4. What evidence is there of the supplier adding value by adopting proactive approaches, making improvements, building strong working relationships and so on?
  5. Can the supplier demonstrate a spirit of co-operation in their past or present customer relationships?
  6. What is the supplier’s track record on team-working, relationship management and/or partnering? What evidence can be sought supporting their proposals on working together?

3. Capacity

It is important to validate the totality of the declared resource skills against overall supplier resources.
If the supplier has high reliance on one major customer, this may present a risk to the project. This does not necessarily mean that the supplier must be rejected out of hand, but the risk should be analysed, considered and managed like other project risks. Questions like:

  1. Does the supplier have adequate capacity and resource for the requirement, both now and in the future?
  2.  How many experienced staff does the supplier have working in relevant areas?
  3. What other contracts does the supplier currently have running that could affect capacity?
  4. What other contracts is the supplier bidding for? If they won them, would this affect capacity available for this requirement?
  5. Does the supplier give sufficient consideration to ensure that there is sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing business needs?
  6. Can the supplier demonstrate that it has the necessary resource forecasting experience and perhaps models for capacity planning purposes?
  7. Is there evidence that SLA requirements are used to define availability plans and targets?
  8. Does the supplier monitor actual performance against availability targets?
  9. Does the supplier have adequate methods and procedures for monitoring service capacity and tuning systems performance?

 

The next two parts to this comprehensive look at the Buyer’s perspective will be published in the next fortnight and if you have any thoughts on what else should be included please let us know.