August 13, 2009

Why Buyers Believe They Would Make Great Sales People

The former head of procurement in a major telco commented to us recently that ‘good buyers make great salespeople’. However, more controversially perhaps, he suggested the reverse is not necessarily true. That is that salespeople do not necessarily make good buyers. Interesting topic indeed, so we decided to give it a little thought.

Gamekeeper Turned Poacher.
Applying the ‘Gamekeepers turned poacher’ principle, buyers should logically make good salespeople. Would you agree? Well, we have learned to be cautious in picking the right salespeople, so in answer to the question ‘do buyers make good salespeople’ our answer would have to be ‘some would and some wouldn’t!’

However, what is incontestable is that buyers should have several advantages when it comes to selling. The reasons include:
- Buyers have learned all the tricks of suppliers, once more they know what works and what does not.
- They know the processes involved in buying, the rigor, the controls, the people and the process.
- They know how to evaluate a proposal and more importantly how to write a business case.
- They are highly experienced in understanding stakeholders, their needs and priorities.
- They also have experience selling, having been involved in a lot of internal selling in the context of organizational priorities, competing projects and limited budgets

Here is another way to look at it: In many organisations the buyer is the first (and sometimes) the last line of defense against the salesperson. So, imagine the defender switches sides and becomes the attacker – and not just any attacker, but one who thinks like the defender and can anticipate his, or her every move!

So, it stands to reason that as buying is the inverse of selling, the buyer turned seller could be a formidable seller indeed. The buyer turned salesperson would clearly have some valuable insider information, as well as some very applicable systems and skills.

There are perhaps some other factors involved however. The first is whether the buyer would want to be a salesperson. I imagine the commissions and the company car would be welcome, but perhaps not the targets, the sales meetings and the cold calling.

Often the aspect of the salesperson that the buyer sees – the sales presentations, the client entertainment, the negotiation, etc. – is only a small proportion of the salesperson’s role – one that is dwarfed by the remainder of the tasks associated with maintaining a healthy pipeline (meeting potential customers, developing relationships and understanding changing buyer requirements).

If buyers make great sellers, then why don’t sellers make great buyers?
If good buyers make great salespeople, then do great salespeople make good buyers? Now buyers reading this may quip ’the salesperson gets honest and becomes a buyer!’ Well, let’s not go there and focus purely on the question to hand. Shouldn't some of the skills, tools and techniques applied by sales people prove valuable in the role of buying?

Well, it would seem logical that they would. The caveat, being however, that we are talking about those skills, tools and techniques of the professional salesperson. The word professional is key, some of the skills associated with the stereotypical salesperson are not got from either buying, or selling. So again, perhaps the safest answer is ‘some would and some wouldn’t’. Food for thought.

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