Is your goal to improve your team's performance, find the solution to a pressing corporate problem, or advance the firm's reputation as an industry leader? Consider finding help from the outside, from consultants.
This resource will guide you to become a smart buyer in order to choose the right seller, to then accomplish your goals with their help.
But first, why bring in consultants?
You can depend on the energy and focus that propelled you to your current position to make changes happen, knowing that the first step is a thorough analysis of issues: what's not working, why it's not, and what you want to happen next. But this is no easy job. Stakeholders with a vested interest in the status quo may not recognize the problem or opportunity you see, or may actively resist change. Those you task with proposing next steps may be unwilling or unable to handle the challenge.
This is where you get stuck.
For some buyers, it's no question that outside help will move them forward. Maybe it's intuition or experience, or maybe it's a little bit of desperation, but they know they could use the help. For others, this realization is not so easy.
So if you're in the market for a consultant, and this is a new consideration, this guide is here to help. You're going to have to choose among competitors vying for the job, and you need criteria for making your choice. But by honing your buying skills, you will be able to make smart decisions, build strong relationships, and reach solutions in a streamlined fashion.
Consider the following qualities of effective buying, and become the smart buyer you need to be to ensure your company's success.
Doing It Right
Skillful Buyers know to share what they want to accomplish. They recognize that a consultative salesperson will also help surface unnamed challenges. A buyer who doesn't — or can't — clarify what they want makes finding a workable solution impossible.
Smart buyers know the critical importance of providing all relevant information that the salesperson requests. They participate in an ongoing dialogue throughout the process, start with early fact-finding before reviewing a proposal for the chosen solution, and know that withholding timely information impedes progress at every stage and undermines the trust between buyer and seller.
Actively engaged buyers ask questions. By asking questions, you discover the kinds of problems a seller has solved for other clients and the extent of their knowledge of their company and the industry.
Savvy buyers recognize the seller as a resource and partner. By establishing this trust, the seller understands that they won't be hounded or pressured into a decision, and will feel enabled to be patient by keeping communication lines open.
Accomplished buyers never make price the primary consideration. Of course a project cost is a factor, but emphasizing it too soon could mean settling for something less than the best solution, or working with a firm lacking the resources or expertise to deliver the solution it sold cheaply. Once a solution is identified, the price may be negotiable.
Lastly, an active buyer recognizes that indecision is a destructive force — worse than if the answer is a no. Simply put, decision making moves the process along.
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Doing it wrong
Bad buyers succumb to their dramas, putting their concerns above all else, usually driven by their anxiety. Bad buying includes:
- Going to Radio Silence as a strategy
- Showing up late but not apologizing
- Coming to a meeting with an unfounded, preconceived, negative notion of the seller
- Being untruthful or deceitful
- Being out of the gate defensive, rather than flexible
- Attempting to reach individual glory
- Ignoring interactions that prevent the purchase
- Expecting that the seller of services will provide them with a free consultation
This is where buyers and sellers lean in. Actual workability often extends beyond a single project into a long-term alliance. For example, it doesn't mean the seller automatically gets any new contract the buyer offers, but it could mean that they are always in the running.
Workability creates a shared mission to succeed that guides decision-making on both sides. It enables the buyer and seller to agree on the project's scope and the deliverables that will be part of the solution. It's also an essential component in identifying who is responsible for each project's various elements.
What workability requires of a buyer is identical to what it requires of a seller:
- Staying engaged
- Honoring agreements and providing a detailed explanation when what was agreed to is no longer possible
- Communicating openly and often, providing timely feedback and candid explanations
- Providing essential information
- Making explicit, specific requests
Lastly, buyers benefit from workable relationships in that they can sell their projects internally to the range of stakeholders as needed, having prepared with the seller. In other words, understanding that this is a partnership can yield great solutions.
Utilize this guide, be a smart buyer, and build workable relationships.
Buyers: what are your established strategies to building relationships with sellers? Tell us in the comments!