Navigating the Procurement Process

The procurement labyrinth

Navigating through a public sector sales process can be a terrific challenge. You are required to discern the mobilizers from the impostors, streamline procurement red tape, leverage internal and external politics, fight budget constraints, overcome competing projects, and mitigate security concerns, while still delivering on expected revenue goals. Can it be done? Yes!

Now that you have successfully navigated the discovery, assessment, presentation, and pricing components of the sale there is an entirely new bridge to be crossed before you can ring the bell on this deal. It is the back end process, which includes procurement and contracting. In most public sector sales processes, the back end can be just as involved, if not more, than the front end. If you're not careful, you may end up spinning your sales wheels on a deal that may look great now only to find later that you are at risk of losing it because your process isn't sound. 

You've been there before. You've successfully navigated a deal through the technical sale to this next stage and your manager asks you for a status update. You say something like, "oh, it's in procurement." To an inexperienced public sector sales manager that may be fine but to one who has been around for a while, your statement is a red flag. It is a proverbial sales process mullet - business in the front, party in the back - and it says that you do not yet fully understand what the procurement and contracting process actually looks like. 

We want to make sure that when you are asked questions like this one, you are ready to drop some strong knowledge on management. Here are some tips to make sure you have answers to navigate contracting and procurement like a champ.

Embrace the details early

First, during the discovery process, start to gauge your internal champion's expertise with the procurement and contracting processes by asking the following:

  • Who from your organization is typically involved in the procurement and contracting processes?

  • In your experience, what can go wrong in this process?

  • What does your security review consist of? How long does it typically take?

  • What boxes do you typically need to check to bring on a solution like this?

  • Could you walk me through your procurement process?

Next, ask yourself the following questions. If you don't have the answer to one of them, find a way to get it tactfully and soon. 

  • Does your contact really know the process or is he or she an impostor? If the latter is true, can you get an audience with a true mobilizer?

  • Who is the final signatory or economic buyer? Do you have access to the economic buyer today?

  • If there is an RFP threshold, what is it? Would it be worth responding to this RFP? Tip: Try Patri to assess your company's probability of winning.

  • Has budget (really) been allocated? How much?

  • Is your company a registered vendor yet?

  • Does the customer require a P.O. before they can receive an invoice? If so, what does the P.O. process consist of? How long does it take for a deal of this size?

  • What could go wrong in the security review process?

  • Is there a board/committee that decides on purchases over a certain size? If so, when do they meet and is this on their next agenda?

  • What remaining legal detail needs to be addressed? Does your legal team see any red flags that need to be remedied?

There are many more questions to consider as you work on this investigative process. One of our next posts will aggregate this detail into key milestones to focus on to get the deal done. Happy selling!