Congratulations! YOU WON THE ORDER! Your hard work, your persistence and determination, your dedicated time and your business strategies have finally paid off! You spent countless hours, generated innumerable documents, survived strenuous negotiations and even poured on your sales charm. And now you can sit back, relax and reap the financial and emotional benefits of receiving the order. WRONG! Don’t even think about relaxing because your work has just begun! In fact there are several things a Sales Professional should do after receiving the order.
NUMBER 1: Don’t Disappear! To some Sales Professionals, the term “closing the deal” seems to literally mean just that! The deal has been made, the order has been received; SEE YA LATER! If any Sales Professional is interested in REPEAT SALES, they need to pay as much attention to the Buyer during the entire program as they did during the quoting process. A sufficient amount of post-order placement attention will be noticed and will improve your opportunities to receive future orders.
Nothing is more upsetting to a Buyer than a Sales Rep who hovers around their desk during the supplier selection process, then disappears once they receive the purchase order. As stated earlier, the term “closing the deal” seems to have a literal meaning to some suppliers. The deal should never be “closed”! When the purchase order has been placed and the handshake has been made, the deal should just be opening, not closing! Stand out from your competition by informing the Buyer that you will put as much time and energy on the actual job as you did attempting to win it! Hard to believe but I’ve rarely had ANYONE tell me that in my years in corporate purchasing.
I remember a conversation with another Buyer at a previous employer regarding this very topic. He expressed his concern over the lack of communication from the suppliers once the purchase order had been placed. He said, “It seems that after the program contract had been awarded, the Sales Rep disappears . . . only to return again as my best friend when a new program is created. I have no desire to discuss future programs with any Sales Rep who has not suffered through past problems with me from the last one.” Unfortunately, it is the perception of many Buyer’s that Sales Professionals hang around their desk during the quoting process, but once the order has been received they fail to return e-mails and voice-mails or correct project issues in a timely manner . . . if at all.
Remember that sales representation is still required after the purchase order has been placed because in most cases the Sales Rep is the ONLY link between the Buyer and the supplier’s company. Making sure the Buyer is satisfied throughout the entire program is what helps to initiate repeat business. Have you ever dealt with a Sales Rep at a car dealership that was more than helpful before you signed on the dotted line . . . but after you bought the vehicle they never returned your calls? It’s irritating in your private life and it’s irritating in the procurement world.
NUMBER 2: Provide Contact Information. After receiving the order, provide sufficient company contact information to the Buyer. The Sales Rep should make sure they provide the Buyer with a company contact-information document that specifies who to contact and for what. The document could include service, spare parts, training, accounts receivable, engineering, production, etc. That information is important to the Buyer during the program and it also helps take some of the workload off of the Sales Professional by reducing the amount of time spend as the middle-person between the Buyer and your own company colleagues. After the order has been placed, most Buyers aren’t sure who to contact when an issue or question arises, so they tend to needlessly overwhelm the Sales Rep with telephone calls. If the Buyer prefers only one contact and if the Sales Rep can promptly handle every issue, that’s fine. But why become submerged in problems and questions that are either out of your control or are not your responsibilities? Make sure the Buyer knows who to contact directly for faster results and make sure he knows you will always assist him if he needs help. Another good tip is to ask the Buyer if he prefers a single point of contact. If so, be prepared to accommodate him and make sure every applicable person in your organization understands and complies with his preference.
NUMBER 3: Communicate Delivery Issues. Nothing frustrates the Buyer more than finding out a supplier is going to be late with their product, especially when the information came from everyone BUT the supplier. Sales Professionals should be encouraged to contact the Buyer immediately when some action or inaction may cause the product or service to be late. Be honest, be up front and communicate the news as well as contingency plan as soon as possible. Let’s think again in terms of your own private life. Let’s imagine you order a laptop computer from a local electronic retail store and they tell you it will be delivered in a week. That’s good, because it’s for your spouse’s birthday which is three weeks away. A month goes by and still no laptop. Then you find out that the retail store KNEW it was going to be late but no one bothered to let YOU know! It’s frustrating! I’m that first to admit that most Buyers need to remove the fear some suppliers have in reporting problems. But letting the Buyer know there’s an issue with delivery when it’s too late to do anything about it is going to make the Buyer even more upset than learning about the problem early on. This is especially true if the Buyer could have planned ahead if he had known the product was going to be late. In many cases, a Buyer not knowing this own responsible product is going to be late becomes embarrassing and upsetting when his own manager finds out BEFORE the Buyer! Guess who’s going to pay dearly for that one?!
NUMBER 4: Ask the Buyer for Help. One of the functions of a typical Buyer is to serve as the intermediary between the supplier and the end-user of the supplier’s product. If the end-user has an issue with a supplier they will usually contact the Buyer. At that point, the Buyer will contact the supplier and attempt to resolve the issue at hand. Conversely, the supplier should also be encouraged to contact the Buyer during any situation in which they have not received communication, documentation or action from the end-user that would jeopardize the timing of the project. This could include signed approval drawings, processed parts for product qualification, components necessary for build, or other items that would impede the design, fabrication, delivery and qualification timelines. Understandably, some suppliers are afraid to contact the Buyer to let him know of errors on their end. However, it will become more of a problem for you to have the Buyer find out things went wrong before it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s easier to avert issues than it is to recover from them. So after receiving the order, you should ALWAYS discuss the Buyer about contacting him when his help is needed.
NUMBER 5: Communicate Product and Service Issues. If your products are not performing according to the terms of the purchase order, if they are constantly down or having major production issues, don’t let the Buyer hear it first from the end-user. Instead, let the Buyer hear it from you! Again, nothing is more embarrassing to a Buyer than to have his manager call him into the office and ask if they knew a specific supplier’s product is causing lost production in the plant. The Buyer is supposed to be on top of things and if your product isn’t living up to expectations you need to let him know immediately: “Hello, Mr. Smith. I wanted to let you know as soon as possible that our product for the Z55 Program is down. We have a serviceman heading for the plant to work on it. He’ll be there about 2:00 this afternoon and will stay until it’s running to production levels.” It’s hard for a Buyer to be mad at a supplier who’s accepting responsibility and taking care of issues. However, it’s extremely easy for the Buyer to get mad at a supplier who doesn’t inform him of issues and doesn’t take responsibility. Buyers would prefer to get the honest facts from the supplier instead of an emotional response from the end-user. When the end-user becomes emotional, so does the Buyer!