How to explain a customers own purchasing process to them

I sell B2B. Once every few months a potential customer will want to place an order but have absolutely no idea how the typical B2B purchasing process works.

You would think that the purchasing dept. would put together some instructions on how all this works for their employees but I am convinced that purchasing / accounts payable depts run with a bit of “tactical incompetence” as they don’t like spending money :wink:

So - has anyone seen a simple easy to follow guide that I can refer potential customers to to give them a crash course in how to purchase things for their companies?



You are trying to fix their broken homes for them? Good luck. :smile:

The big named multinational I work for has a clear, defined process. If your clients don’t, there is nothing you can do except ask them to talk to their accounts.

And remember Hanlon’s Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Not exactly fix their house for them but at least give them a bit of info of how it usually works and the terms involved so the know the right questions to ask.

E.g. this mornings question was

“Can you send me a PO so I can purchase this”.

In this case they do seem to have a well defined process :wink:
They just need a “Purchase Order” from you to have their purchasing dept. sign it.

@sts - not sure if you got my point or not. For avoidance of doubt they were confused what a PO is and think Seller sends it to Buyer when its other way around.

Ahhh, mkay, I got it wrong then, sorry :smiley:

Edit: then maybe it’d be useful if you prepared a PO template or something so their purchasing dept. can just sign this or use the data to issue their own…

@sts - That would normally be a Quote - they would then use the info on there (product/qty/price etc) to prepare a PO.

I’ve clearly not explained this well.

Its not that these big companies don’t have these documents or procedures in place - they do. They have documents and procedures up the wazooo!

Its that I sometimes come across individual worker bees in large businesses who have no idea about how this stuff works or where to go, what to ask for etc. They want to buy ‘the thing’ but have no idea how to go about getting that started.

My idea is for a simple guide to help them understand the process/terminology so they have a head start in knowing where to go and what to ask for. Helps them, therefore helps me.

I’ve had that one too! Arf…

I’m not sure there is a boilerplate process you can put in place, but I’m starting to ask them earlier on in the process…

“So, assuming this is a great fit for your needs; what’s the purchasing process in your company?” much earlier on in the process.

And preferably, have moved up the conversational chain to the person that has the signing authority, does it a lot, and so knows what the process is.

I haven’t yet had a good experience with a B2B customer that didn’t understand this process. Sooner or later, the wheels come off.

I’m about to sack a customer who said they wanted the service but doesn’t appear to know how to get their accounts dept to pay for it. So the first few months it’s been a battle; now I’m one day away from removing them from the system…

My experience is that individual workers have no purchasing power anyway. If they want something they escalate it to their boss or manager who should know the process.

I haven’t yet had a good experience with a B2B customer that didn’t understand this process.Sooner or later, the wheels come off.

Interesting - thats totally NOT what I’ve seen.

I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years where I’ve explained things a little and got a PO or just CC order a few days later and I can’t off hand remember any that just vanished. (But don’t do a sales heavy follow up process so I may just have forgotten).

I still think its worth me putting some effort into this as it comes up often enough - I’ll share what I put together with the group should anyone need it (and I think some new bootsrappers will probably need a crash course in this as well)

Some references here should anyone need them in future - these are from our perspective so I am going to write something simple from customers perspective (see ‘Purchase Orders’) - damn you must get through a keyboard a week @patio11!

yes, please do! I’d like to learn from your experience to figure out what I’m doing wrong :slight_smile:

Wait, why did you let him on the system if he hasn’t paid? :open_mouth:

Payment on an invoice may take 30 to 90 days, and you are going to lose enterprise customers if they have to wait for their slow AP department to process the payment on your invoice before providing access to software or a service.

If you accept purchase orders, you are essentially given that customer a line of credit. It’s a risk, but one you probably need to take if your software costs more than $100. Purchase Orders are legally binding in the US (and I assume many countries), but it most cases I doubt it is worth the cost of trying to enforce that in court.

As for @Rhino’s original question, I would make sure your quote has a couple of lines on how to order (e.g. “We accept purchase orders - please provide this quote to your purchasing department. PO’s can be emailed to”; Or “Order this by credit card at http://url/to/quote#”)

Here’s a useful link: