My company, in conjunction with three of other service providers, recently hosted a marketing services procurement panel in Dallas. We wanted to get marketing decision makers together in one room to pick their brains. What are their successes? Their challenges?  What do they believe are the best procurement services practices? We wanted to learn, from a marketing perspective, what they look for in a print supplier company. The panel consisted of Tiffany McClain, Senior Director of Marketing at Mimi’s Café, Linda Veatch, VP of Marketing at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Nichole Dreyer, Senior Director of Marketing at Bar Louie. Our panel was moderated by Doug WiIlmarth, Chief Marketing Officer at Genghis Grill.

We posed the following questions:

What are you looking for in an RFP (request for proposal)?

What do you want to see in a sales presentation?

How do you prefer to communicate with your service providers?

How much follow-up is appropriate?

How does a procurement company best stand out and show value to your company?

The panelists’ feedback was detailed, enlightening and inspirational. I gleaned the following “Do’s and Don’ts” from their responses:

1) DON’T call a prospect’s cell phone without permission. Getting a business card does not give you permission to call someone’s cell phone. Many of my marketing friends work at companies with franchisees. They have their cell phones listed on their business cards for the franchisees, not for sales people. If someone gives you a business card, ask him/her what is the best way to follow up.

DO clarify what number you should use if they prefer a phone call.

2) DON’T send your A-team to give the presentation and your B-team to run the follow-up meetings. The panel members shared several situations in which a seasoned team would make a concise, professional sales pitch but made the mistake of sending less qualified personnel to the follow-up. The B-teams lacked essential knowledge about their account. No buyer wants to take the time to repeat information already shared.

DO include some of the people that will be involved in servicing your client’s account in the sales process and in follow-up meetings. This gives your prospect the ability to decide if your team’s culture and style is a good fit.

3) DON’T come to a meeting without doing your research. Prospects want to know that you understand their brand, market segment and competition. Your prospect should not have to share or explain information that can be obtained online. If you are meeting with a restaurant brand, talk about the last time you and your family ate at their establishment, what you liked about the menu and the ambiance. Marketing people value constructive feedback, so it is OK to offer a few suggestions for improvement.

DO include pictures of your team at their various locations and mention each team members’ favorite food item.

4) DON’T go over your buyer’s head. This is a big no-no. Yes, it’s important to have as many internal contacts as possible, and, yes, there are lots of personnel changes (you never know when your buyer will leave the company or transition into a new role), but you should never diminish the buyer’s role and reputation.  Our panelists told us numerous stories of salespeople going over the buyers’ head directly to the boss or members of the executive team to try and make a sale. The panel members felt it was unprofessional and undermined the buyer. The panelists confirmed that they have not selected front running candidates in the past solely because the seller went over the buyer’s head.

DO respect the buyer.

5) DON’T be one-dimensional.  When a buyer has a need, he/she looks for a solution. If the buyer does not have knowledge in the area, or perhaps even if he/she does, your proposal should address how you will solve the need. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions and new ideas.

DO think outside the box. There may be an innovative way for you to add value or provide solutions for additional pain points. When appropriate, I give prospects three packages: basic, mid and advanced (When working with a specific client, my three packages have a clever title that relates to the brand). This lets the buyer know I can solve his/her problem, and that I have the capability to do more.

While my main buyer is the procurement department, I know that marketing can be responsible for and/or heavily influence the print supplier selection process.  Procuring marketing services can be a complex, relationship driven process. I try to keep it simple by remembering that marketing executives still buy from people and are looking to add value.

My goals are to build relationships and to stand above the rest. I think it’s essential to highlight your competence and your integrity.  Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and think about the sales process from their point of view. Would you want to hire you?

This article first appeared in the Print+Promo publication.

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