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Prep for a Buyer Inquisition –Dana

October 2011
A printer writes, “Margie, we’re about to meet a team of nine buyers for the first time. We responded to their request for an RFP, and today we found out that we made the final four of prospective print partners. What advice can you give us?”

“Bravo!” was my initial response. I had a good idea how much work went into responding to an RFP for a major financial institution. This printer and his colleagues answered close to 100 questions—and they evidently impressed the company enough to get them short-listed.

Now, he was about to meet this team of professional buyers for the first time. How could he prepare for this? What might the buyers be looking for to help them decide which printing firm to choose for this long-term contract?

I thought about being in their shoes—which I was for more than 15 years—and then called up this printer to talk. (He worked for a company that was a PBI conference sponsor in the past. I never forget a supporter.) Sometimes a chain of e-mails just won’t do. God bless the telephone.

How important was this potential client to him? Very. Then I asked if he’d met any of the buyers previously. No. We proceeded to brainstorm.

Do Your Homework

The first order of business for a printer in this situation is simple: find out as much as you can about these prospects ahead of time. Whether you’re meeting a panel of buyers or just one, familiarize yourself with their company and their industry to identify current trends and business challenges. Some of this information was probably shared with this particular printer already, since he’d responded to an RFP.

I’d also want to know if this buying team was the sole buying group in the organization. Is all print buying centralized? Do these buyers work in marketing, procurement, media, corporate communications, or some other umbrella? Arming yourself with information about the group is a top priority. It’s just like going for a job interview. The last thing you want to happen is to come across as uninformed and unprepared. The more familiar you are with the prospective client’s business, the better the impression you’ll make.

If you’re lucky enough to get names of individual buyers before the meeting, your next stop is LinkedIn. Take a look at the buyers’ profiles. How long have they been at the company? Where did they work previously? Maybe you’ve crossed paths before. Maybe some of them were customers once upon a time. Every bit of information that might connect you in some way to this panel of buyers will benefit you. (PS: If you don’t have individuals’ names, search the company and/or job titles on LinkedIn.)
 

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