Now that's a great question, and the right way to think! Not always, but more often than not, the purchasing department might better be described as the "sales prevention department". Ironically, many sales people fall into the trap of "believing" that they must call on purchasing first to be able to get into new accounts.
Following this course of action is often flawed because many purchasing departments are just part of the strategy companies use to keep sales people out. Or, at a minimum, to get them to think that a "low price is the only way to get the business". As long as you continue to call on purchasing, and be controlled by their buying process, you will be functioning in a system that is designed to defeat you.
First, in order to develop a new behavior that will get better results we need to establish a new way of thinking. That includes changing the way we think about purchasing departments. The reality of the situation and the new belief you must adopt is the following: Purchasing departments do not make decisions, they implement decisions that are made by other people.
I frequently get "push back" when I make this statement in programs, but I would ask you to think about it. Most of the time purchasing gets a directive from some other department in the company on what to buy and then they go out into the market and implement the decision that was handed down to them. If you ask them "are you the decision maker (bad question BTW)" they will always say yes. However, they are usually carrying out an order they were given. This in no way recommends that you should "never" call on purchasing, but asks that you change the way you look at how decisions are really made within the companies you call on.
So, now that we understand the need to get around purchasing (oh, I can hear people freaking out), how can we make that happen? In future posts I will reveal what really drives purchasing and what to talk about with purchasing departments/managers. However, today I would like to reveal a strategy that will help you get to the real decision makers. Most of the time, when you ask purchasing who you need to call on in Engineering, Information Systems, Marketing, Human Resources, Brand Management, etc. you will be "stiff armed" and told to "just call on us". We already know that is a dead end strategy.
So, where do we go and how do we find out who to call on? Do you know, that in every company you call on there is a department that you will never be screened from and will welcome you with open arms? Yep, there is,it's called the "the sales department". Any company you will ever call, if you ask for "sales", you will never hear "are they expecting your call" and will never be screened out. You will always be put through, immediately.
Now, once connected to sales, who will you be confronted by? Some surly gate keeper or purchasing agent... of course not. You"ll be connected to a sales person just like you, who can help you find out who to contact. Tell them you're in sales just like they are and ask them "if they ever find it difficult to get through purchasing departments to the people they really need to talk to". They will say "of course" and then tell them if they would be willing to give you a little help, you will help them overcome that problem forever! When they ask you how, first ask them the name of the people you need to contact... most of the time they will tell you. Then tell them, t"o get rid of the problem do exactly what I just did and call on sales". In essence, you have just demonstrated the tactic and created for yourself the results they are looking for.
Unorthodox-ed, yes, scary, maybe but productive...absolutely. Will it always work, no, and it doesn't have to. If it works 20% of the time I just got you 20% more quality contacts and what would that mean. If if you are calling on more quality contacts you will get more business. Try it... what have you got to lose?
How do you get through purchasing... stop calling on them!