During my career selling travel services I have encountered many ‘classic’ buyers. By that I mean very professional people who know exactly what they want and how to get it at the best rate. They are well practised in procedures and buying protocol and have a clear plan. This is good - but is it enough?
I do not think so.
Better deals will be done and improved return achieved if two other abilities are learnt and brought into play: presentation and selling skills. Buyers should know how to buy, but purchasing a service such as travel presents other considerations.
For example, unless you are capable of monitoring and enforcing a mandatory travel policy, it is likely you could lose 20 per cent of volume from your programme. You will also probably be buying from people who are, frankly, not up to dealing with professional buyers. This brings me back to selling and presenting.
Most travel suppliers are increasingly cynical and suspicious about the ability of buyers to deliver the promised volume negotiated in travel deals. Vendors are now starting to hold a little back and only give the best package to those that convince them they can deliver the volume they have promised. The most mutually successful deals I have seen are where buyers are able to ‘sell’ their ability to deliver with credibility. I once helped a buyer create their own volume delivery agreement which they gave to a delighted supplier and ended up with a fantastic deal.
But the deal itself is the beginning, not the end, of the project. There are so many ways people can get round a policy that I could write a book about it. Loopholes can be closed, or at least made more difficult to get through, when the buyer can present their case to the right internal audience with a strong sponsor. To me this is more important than the deal itself.
I have always told myself that to be successful I should outsell the salesman and successfully communicate how clever I (representing the company) have been. After all, if you have used your sales skills to set up an exceptional deal you might as well ensure everyone knows and acts upon it.