Become good at selling to become better at buying

Become good at selling to become better at buying

We’ve all seen it at the airport check-in. Mr. More-Important-Than-Everyone-Else complaining about something or other. He’s late to board and they won’t let him on. Maybe he’s exceeded his luggage allowance, or, best of all, because he’s a frequent flyer, he wants an upgrade. “I fly with you all the time.” “ I’m a personal friend of your CEO.” ” Do you know who I am?!”

I was once given a master class in how to get upgraded on a flight. It was from a colleague, a professional buyer,  who bet me he could get his sister a business class seat on a coach class ticket. I paraphrase the conversation for brevity but this is how he approached the check in.

Purchasing Insight logo“I wouldn’t do you job for all the tea in China. I saw how patient you were with that difficult customer. I don’t think I could restrain myself as well as you.”

What a charmer! So far so good.

“It’s not my luggage – it’s my sister’s. First time flyer. She’s a bit nervous so I promised to hold her hand. You will look after her won’t you? She wanted a window seat but I messed up the reservation. I feel really bad about it …“

To cut a long story short, the seat’s changed to a window seat, near the front, business class.

Become good at selling to become better at buying

Jason Busch wrote recently about the sense in sales and purchasing people collaborate more so that sales people can understand where procurement people are coming from. It’s just as important for purchasing people to have some sales skills too. The recent article “How to be a customer of choice” in CPO agenda made the same point: “..the way suppliers value their priority accounts depends only in part on the revenue they generate – and there are other levers you can pull to make your organization a more attractive customer”.

Getting upgraded on a flight has nothing to do with how important you are as a customer. It’s about empathizing with the decision maker – the girl or guy at the check-in. It’s a simple sales skill and professional buyers need to take note. Being a good buyer often means being good at selling.