Overcoming the Salesman’s Advantage

Overcoming the Salesman’s Advantage

The July/Aug edition of Professional Purchasing had this intriguing article, and we have several observations. The position of the author is this: “It is commonly accepted that, all other things being equal, a purchasing agent/buyer is at a disadvantage in negotiation with a salesman”.

The relative size and sophistication of buying and selling sides of a situation can be anywhere on the entire scale, so there are doubtless circumstances where the article’s premise is correct. We believe this would be where the item to be bought is relatively sophisticated so that the seller’s trained representative would have superior knowledge compared to the buyer. An example of this might be a sealed electronic control panel needed for some equipment. Here the sales person should know a great deal about the “guts” of the controlling box, whereas the buyer probably would not.

Proficient Sourcing’s mission is to introduce appropriate candidates for procurement professionals to consider when a need arises for some outsourced manufacturing. Our candidates tend to be relatively small job shops with a history of success satisfying customers, and delivering parts on time and built to specifications. So far as we know, we have never had a situation where we believed we had the advantage in any negotiation.

It is probable that the services our candidates can provide are not unique, and the buyer has choices. We even offer multiple candidates where multiple excellent shops exist within our network. The article strongly recommends multiple quotes, so at least we agree on that point. Otherwise, we have sharp disagreements with the author

One of the author’s points is the superior training the salesman has relative to the buyer. In a features and perhaps benefits sense, this might be correct. However, if the item being quoted is for some product or purpose unknown to the potential supplier, this point cannot be valid. Typically, we are asked to quote on some part or collection of parts for some product that is not identified. While we can research the buyer’s company and get some idea of what’s going on, we usually have no further specific information.

The article also states the problem of knowledge disparity: “companies are more specialized in what they sell than what they are buying. …the disparity only exists if the buyer is buying one of many things that they use to make their core value and thus cannot master any one thing. The best way to take advantage of knowledge disparity would be to buy one raw material and manufacture diverse products from it. The more diverse the better. The people who do this best? Machine shops and sheet metallurgists, of course.”

We wonder what experiences this author has had! Every metalworking shop we know of deals with very many materials and make a wide variety of things.

Most machine shops and sheet metal fabricators we know of do not make products—they make components for others. This means they often have no idea what the finished item is, as we noted above, or even the function of component being quoted. Their specific expertise is HOW to do machining or sheet metal fabrications.

As a matter of fact, it has been our contention that buyers would be well served to provide more knowledge to the job shop concerning function of the item in question. If you do this, you may find the sort of free engineering help we’ve commented upon in previous newsletters. Most shops we know would be more than happy to volunteer suggestions, since it would likely help their cause. What’s to lose?

So: if you read the article take heart! Working with us probably means you have a distinct advantage. Just give us a call (513) 489-5252 and take full advantage!

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