A good friend of mine is a Lead Buyer for one of the automotive companies. During his career he’s purchased a wide variety of products and services. Last week I asked him where he believes Sales Professionals can make the biggest splash in improving their opportunities. His answer was immediate and no surprise to me: “Pay attention to my needs!” I asked him to clarify his statement . . . what did he mean when he said “my needs”? It was his contention that most Sales Professionals do not care about his requests as a Buyer; that they focus ONLY on their own needs as a Sales Rep. His reasoning came down to two things: (1) Not paying attention to the details in the request-for-quote, and (2) not asking about or showing concern for project requirements. As a Buyer who has similar responsibilities, I would have to agree with my friend.
Remember the Burger King ad that declared, “Have It Your Way!”? Nothing is more frustrating than giving your order to a fast-food cashier only to end up with something you didn’t want, or some special request like “no pickles” that was ignored. In your private life it’s aggravating when you deal with retail specialist who tries to sell you something you didn’t want, tries to sell you options you didn’t ask for, who didn’t pay attention to you, and who did too much talking and not enough listening. Welcome to the world of Corporate Purchasing!
From the Buyer’s Desk, if there’s one foremost rationalization as to why Sales Professionals lose the purchase order, it’s their inability to pay attention to the terms, conditions, requirements and associated specifications of the request-for-quote (RFQ). Whether the supplier is receiving an RFQ through e-mail or from attending a line-up meeting, many times it appears to Buyers that their project needs are NOT being taken seriously.
Now I realize that we Buyers can throw a lot at you during the RFQ process; an overload of specifications, product requirements and commercial conditions. At times it’s difficult and time consuming to sift through all of the documentation in order to give the Client what they’re asking for. But too often, directions and requirements that are clearly spelled out tend lose their context by the time the Buyer receives the quote. Even the simplest of directions are bungled . . . and it’s the little things that count! Understanding that, you will need to make sure of four things when it comes to the RFQ.
ONE: You need to make sure that whoever receives the RFQ or attends the line-up meeting takes proficient notes and asks the Buyer the right questions. Make sure they repeat, if needed, what the Buyer requests to make certain they got it right; much like a waitress reading back your dinner order to you to ensure it’s what you wanted. Sometimes it’s best to have two representatives attend an RFQ meeting to make sure nothing is missed.
TWO: Be sure to properly and thoroughly inform your company of the information provided and discussed at the RFQ meeting. You need to make sure your company spends a rational amount of time reviewing the documentation. Make sure the estimating group understands what needs to be quoted. If the Buyer asked for Net 60 payment terms and your company normally provides Net 30, include a cost for both thereby showing the Buyer how you can lower costs with preferred terms. The bottom line is to “quote accordingly” per the terms and conditions even if it’s not your standard T’s & C’s. Buyers need to complete an apples-to-apples comparison of the quotes they receive. And if one supplier is quoting Net 60 terms and another Net 30, it’s not apples-to-apples. So again, if your terms and conditions are normally different than what the Buyer asked for, then pricing accordingly to what the Buyer requested.
THREE: You need to create a “checklist” of the technical and commercial requirements stated in the RFQ to make sure that all directives have been accurately met before the quote is submitted. Someone in the supplier’s organization, most likely the estimating manager, needs to take the bull by the horns and take responsibility to make sure everything is completed on time and as requested.
FOUR: Review the quote prior to its submission to the Buyer. A statement I hear way too often from the Sales Rep is, “Well, I didn’t actually read the quote myself, but I’m surprised the proposal team missed that!” Really? You didn’t even read it? A good number of Sales Professionals earn part of their income through commissions, yet they rely too much on other people in their company for that extra pay. We all appreciate waiters who look at our meals before bringing it to us to ensure it was made per our specifications. A true Sales Professional should ALWAYS review the quote themselves and compare it to the RFQ before handing it to the Buyer. Never trust anyone else when it comes to your potential earning power!
One of the main reasons why some quotes are not to the Buyer’s specifications is because someone in the supplier’s organization made the statement, “I know what they want. I worked on their last job.” That is a VERY dangerous statement to make! Why is it dangerous? Because things change! Projects change. Requirements change. It’s always best to work on a quote as if it’s the first time you’ve ever prepared one for the Buyer. Don’t ever assume that it’s probably the same specifications, payments terms, warranty, technical requirements or qualifications from the last job.
The quoting process really seems to be the function that makes or breaks a supplier. Again, think about how many times you’ve ordered a meal at a fast-food restaurant and they failed to get it right. Now ask yourself, what could they have done to make sure your order was prepared according to the specifications you verbally gave? From the cashier taking your order to the grill cook preparing your meal, what should the employees at that restaurant done to ensure your order was properly prepared? What communication and internal processes could they have taken to ensure satisfaction? After you think about those solutions, you need to incorporate those same actions in your own company to make sure your quote is to the Buyer’s specifications. Suppliers need to make sure the RFQ information, both written and verbal, is correctly addressed in the quote.
Imagine how frustrating it is to a Buyer when they receive a quote that does not meet their requirements. The Buyer asks for a two-year warranty, but the supplier only quotes one year. The Buyer asks for FCA delivery terms but the supplier only quotes COD. The Buyer wants ten products in blue but the supplier quoted fifteen in red. It’s NOT the Buyer’s job to ensure your quote matches the RFQ!
Know that a quote that is properly prepared according to the Buyer’s specifications gets the Buyer’s attention because the majority of proposals are not!!! Now I shouldn’t be telling you this but you should know that quotes that are missing requested information compels the Buyer to do one of two things. ONE: It forces the Buyer to call and tell you what you missed. It’s not the Buyer’s job to let YOU know what’s missing in YOUR own quote. It’s YOUR job to review it before handing it in. Or TWO: It compels the Buyer to throw the quote in the trash!