Last Updated Sep 21, 2009 4:04 PM EDT
A better approach, according to Kevin Hooper, the vice president of technology solutions group at Hewlett-Packard, is to block the sale by asking "why?" and then having a plausible reason why it might be a bad idea for the customer to buy your offering.
This attempt to block the sale will greatly surprise the procurement drone, who naturally thinks the conversation is just going to be about details like price and delivery date. It will also alarm him, because (like all bureaucrats) procurement drones are terrified of being blamed for making a mistake.
Once you know the drone is panicked, say: "I'll be happy to take this problem off your desk. Who in your organization would be able to explain why they think they need our product?" The worried drone will give you the contact information of a real decision-maker.
You then contact the decision-maker and figure out ways to increase the dollar value of the sale. You also now have the opportunity to develop a relationship with that decision-maker, rather than working through the procurement department.
Just as importantly, you've not burned any bridges with the procurement drone. Quite the contrary. You've proven that you can be trusted because you weren't going to sell them something they couldn't use. And now the drone owes you a favor because you just took a problem off his desk.
Using this and some other simple techniques, Hooper was able to measurably increase the average dollar value of sales for a multi-billion dollar division of Hewlett-Packard.
Pretty neat, eh?