Sales Training Tip #357: Deadlines and Purchasing Departments

Did you know that most purchasing departments have multiple sets of deadlines to which they are always trying to adhere? The wise salesperson understands these.

The first set of deadlines is in conjunction with the products or services they’re buying. These are the deadlines we tend to think of most often when selling to a purchasing department.  These deadlines include the normal things such as ensuring a steady flow of inventory, production and scheduling dates, etc.  Every purchasing agent and salesperson is keenly aware of the need to meet these deadlines.

However, there is another set of deadlines to which  most salespeople are either oblivious or chose to ignore as being of little consequence.   When salespeople choose to ignore these deadlines, they are doing so at their own risk.  Not only does their sales volume suffer, their sales motivation takes a hit as well.

The deadlines I’m talking about are the deadlines and timelines the purchasing department uses internally to drive their portion of the business.  These deadlines and timelines are generally linked to supply-chain or financial targets the purchasing departments uses to measure themselves — and the company uses to measure the purchasing department.

As a salesperson, you must be keenly aware of these deadlines.  You can bet that the purchasing department member with whom you are working knows it’s these measurements that can or will make or break their own career.  The best way to find out what these deadlines and timelines are is by asking.   That’s right. Simply ask and you’ll be amazed at what you find out.  The only prerequisite you must have before asking is to have already demonstrated to the purchasing agent your competence and commitment in helping them do their job. You also must feel that the agent has the confidence that you will use whatever information they tell you with respect and in a professional manner.

When you have achieved this level of working relationship with your purchasing agents, you will be doing them a disservice if you don’t ask about all of the deadlines that impact them.  You need to ask, because purchasing agents by nature are not programmed to merely share this information.  However, when asked by a person they respect, they more often than not will share.  Fortunate for you, they will then begin to share even more as time goes along — if they see you using the information in a manner that helps them do their job.

In my own career, I’ve used this approach and have always found it to be beneficial. For several clients early on in my corporate career, I was able to develop a level of sales volume unmatched by my predecessors. More recently I’ve used it to help companies and vendors achieve significant savings on both ends.   If there is one key, it is to first build the relationship with the agent in such a way that allows them to see you as a professional who is committed to helping them.

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