September 19, 2019

Thankful for a Full Pipeline Because Even a Tight Relationship with an SVP Couldn’t Stop These Procurement Crazies

Often, real life and real sales situations provide the best fodder for blog posts. This is definitely one of those cases. Shake your head with me as I recount this true story and conclude with a coaching lesson.

A high-performing senior vice president at a large company was looking to engage me to lead a Sales Truth-based workshop for a portion of his sales team. Because I’ve done work for this company and this specific executive before, I even offered to prepare and facilitate this session at my old fee – a significant discount to my current pricing. We struck a deal, agreed on dates, and I sent an invoice. This is exactly how I’ve worked with this company before, and how I work with most of my clients.

Weeks later my team gets contacted by procurement. They send a 6700-word document with egregious terms declaring that they will own my intellectual property once I present it, and the agreement included all kinds of other obnoxious or irrelevant clauses that had zero to do with leading a sales workshop.

The irony here is that the SVP asked me to teach key concepts from my latest book, Sales Truth, which contains a very blunt chapter where I make it clear that I don’t “do” procurement because I decided that 100% of my effort will go to creating value for clients…and jumping through hoops for procurement people doesn’t fit that category. That chapter shares my own success stories defeating procurement and great stories of two other small companies who won big after deciding they would no longer roll over and acquiesce to silly procurement people/processes either! 

I informed the SVP that the agreement was a non-starter because it was inappropriate and off-target; it read more like it was written for a software developer contractor, not a sales consultant/trainer. His procurement crazies must have taken my rebuff personally because they came back with a revised, much shorter agreement, but added the following insurance requirements. The only editing I did below is redacting the company name and shortening some of the requirements to save space. And remember as you read these insurance requirements, I was being asked to lead a sales workshop, not drive a bunch of teenagers on a field trip or invest this company’s retirement plan assets:

Supplier represents and warrants that it maintains and will hereafter maintain, at Supplier’s expense, all insurance required by law ...that is necessary or prudent in order to adequately protect Supplier and Big Co. from harm, injury (including death) or damage relating to or resulting from Supplier’s provision of Services and Work Product to Big Co. under this Agreement, including, without limitation, the following policies of insurance with at least the specified levels of coverage:

 (a) Broad Form Commercial General Liability Insurance with limits of not less than $1,000,000 per occurrence and $2,000,000 in the aggregate...

 (b) Business Auto Liability Coverage for owned, hired and non-owned vehicles with not less than $1,000,000 combined single limit...

(c) Workers Compensation insurance

(d) Employers Liability in the amount of $1,000,000 per...

(e) Umbrella or Excess Liability Coverage for an amount of not less than $5,000,000

(f) Crime/Employee Dishonesty Coverage...

(g) Professional Liability Insurance/Errors and Omissions in the minimum amount of $5,000,000

Sales friends, you can’t make this stuff up.  Seven types of insurance to lead a workshop for a sales team in need of help? Clearly these business geniuses were “protecting” their company from imminent danger. Who’s running this company – the lawyers or the purchasing department? It’s certainly not the business leaders!

Yes, I pushed back. Yes, I made the case to this senior vice president that I’ve done over 200 engagements and not once been presented anything like this. I even offered to add this company as “additional insured” on my one existing general liability policy, should I accidentally trip during the workshop and injure one of their account executives. Nope. Not good enough. Procurement held firm. Somehow, someway, this company had over-empowered their procurement people to the extent they could prevent the SVP from engaging me if I didn’t agree to this craziness.

Their loss. I walked away and sold the dates to another prospect.

This was a highly unusual situation and the first time that a tight relationship with an executive didn’t allow me to trump the requests of procurement. Again, I’d encourage you to read the success stories in Chapter 13 of Sales Truth. We can (and often do) defeat procurement! But please don’t blow by the most important lesson here:

This is a great example demonstrating why it is imperative to maintain a full, healthy pipeline of sales opportunities...so when you run into a prospect/client whose senior execs have unknowingly over-empowered their procurement people, instead of acquiescing to their asinine and egregious process and "requirements," simply say, "no, thank you" and move on.

Is there a sane, rational executive on this planet who would agree that an author/consultant/trainer should need seven types of insurance in place to lead a workshop requested by a sales executive? No, there isn't. And I'd question the judgment of anyone in my business who'd expend the effort, time, and investment necessary to even attempt acquiring those policies! 

Keep your pipeline full. Own your sales process. Get close to the real business people who desire the outcomes your solution creates. Maintain an abundance mentality. And in the very rare occasion where it appears even the client execs are hostage to their company's stupid procurement process, stick to your guns and process. You should never need a deal that badly, and if you do, that’s an indication it’s way past time to fatten your pipeline!