In Step 2 of the B2B Buying Process, the buying organization develops the Product Specifications/Scope of Work (SoW). This is the document that will be put out for request for proposals (RFP) or tenders. If you have never supplied to the buying company, and you are generally capable, you can face a sudden roadblock. That roadblock feels similar to rigged job descriptions that our dear readers have all experienced. Because … there is an internal candidate!
There is nothing nefarious going on. It’s just the nature of organizations that they need to get something done. For all B2B suppliers who want to serve new customers, B2B Marketing and Sales efforts do help as depicted in the visual above. To make the B2B marketing efforts effective, it is useful to understand what could be going on as specifications are being drawn up at the buying company.
Here is how the B2B Process for the specifications stage plays out:
The B2B Buy is ongoing: Ongoing purchases are also known as the “re-buy task”. The items might have started informally (like forged metal parts) and local manufacturers started supplying the part. Now the volume had grown and the finance and audit folks point out that this is getting big. It should have a formal purchase process. You must invite bids, compare offers, negotiate and place orders with suppliers who have the right price quality offer. Now what would a supply manager/purchasing manager do? They would talk to existing suppliers whose products are already working. They talk to the B2B sales folks for draft specifications. What do the B2B Sales folks of existing suppliers do? They go back and ensure that top leadership is involved in two ways (a) Ensure that they stay in once the purchasing becomes more formal (b) Throw in some specification that only they can do with current or ordered machinery, skilled folks etc. For example, merely mentioning a specific software language or integration can lock out competitors. Once the purchasing folks have some draft specifications, they’ll put together something and call for bids.
Once the call for bids is out- it may be too late: Because the whole point of a formal purchasing process is to compare “apples” to “apples” and not apples to oranges. It is therefore, during the specification process that B2B marketing and sales efforts must be very active for any suppliers who want to get in. Digital marketing (expect the purchasing/user folks to Google something) and sales emails and sales calls can get you a place at the table. See Buying Center.
Modified ReBuy and New Task Buying: In many new task and modified rebuy situations, the process will include internet searches for sure. Even more so, with all the remote working after the Coronavirus pandemic. Internal experts , like R&D scientists and hired consultants can have a huge say in developing specifications. These consultants could include architects for building products, management consultants for all kinds of software and systems. The existing suppliers have an advantage here because if they maintain a close helping relationship with all members of the buying center, it’s very likely that they will be informed and sometimes encouraged to diversify into the new task product. This is very similar to being tapped for a new job, within the same company.
To summarize, existing suppliers have a huge advantage in B2B markets – if they are alert and open to new opportunity. Strangely, they don’t jump on new opportunities or technology and the alert and new entrant can jump in.
For suppliers, being visible through digital marketing and sales is the best option to have a chance to shape the specifications in the B2B Buying Process.