LinkedIn in the procurement process - an interview

digital procurement socialbuying Jan 04, 2023
social buying procurement

Most of the studies on the Internet around social selling show the benefits for salespeople from using LinkedIn in sales processes. As they say, it takes two to tango! The most sophisticated methods of reaching the customer are useless if there is nobody to talk to on the other side of the process. Over the last 1.5 years, I have often heard opinions that LinkedIn in Poland serves only consultants, trainers, HR, and that it is more for marketers. Today I have the best proof for you that there are two in this tango. What's more, I have proof that using LinkedIn has great benefits for both parties. I invite you to an interview with Marek Wojtaszek - Head of IT of one of the largest debt collection companies in Poland. He directed the purchasing process towards a more modern system (starting with LinkedIn). See for yourself what the effects and benefits were for him and the company he represents. 

Katarzyna Sitarska: Thank you Marek for meeting with me to talk about how the use of social networks can translate into real benefits in the work of a modern IT Manager. The topic of our conversation will mostly concern a specific situation in which you used LinkedIn in the first stage of the purchasing process as part of searching for a mass printing device for the company's needs. I am curious about your impressions and feelings regarding this process as well as the benefits from your’s and the company's perspective. którejSo let's start

How long have you been using LinkedIn and how often do you use it?

Marek Wojtaszek: I have been using LinkedIn for 15 years, since it first appeared in Poland. At the beginning, I treated this website more as a place to look for interesting job offers, but over time this has changed. Now, there is a lot of interesting industry information and people share their ideas and knowledge. I use LinkedIn every day. I have the mobile application and for me today, it is one of the channels of communication with the world. I use it as soon as I have a free moment and of course I am not able to read everything, but I like the fact that LinkedIn positions what is interesting to me. So I do not have to search the maze of information to read what interests me. 

KS: What information do you spend time on while on LinkedIn?

MW: I am definitely looking for news or information on new functionalities and technological innovations. I am also interested in information about emerging webinars or events. This is how I found the CIO Club community that I belong to. I often see publications of different people with whom I work to a different extent, and for me this is important information from interesting areas.

KS: What other social channels do you use?

MW: I used to use Facebook more, now I try not to because it took up too much of my time, and secondly, the content that appears there is not substantive and well-filtered. How many kittens and holiday photos can you look at?Today, I practically only look at LinkedIn.

KS: How did you decide to use LinkedIn as part of the search for a supplier in the field of mass printing?

MW: I thought that since I have over 1000 people in my contacts, these people have to know something and can recommend both the device itself and direct contact with salespeople. I was very surprised how this process went. I posted some brief information about what I am looking for and the snowball accelerated very quickly. It surprised me very much how quickly you can reach people with information. In the first 2 days, I had almost 7,000 views. After the first few hours, I had dozens of comments with recommendations. People started writing and calling me. They were both device manufacturers and their partners. I learned a lot of interesting things that shed new light on the process of finding a solution.

KS: If you compare this method of searching for suppliers with the standard method, what are the benefits?

MW:Without a doubt, time is in first place. Within a few days, I had contact with most of the companies I wanted to talk to. I even physically met some of them on the second day. So, it was not only a response to LinkedIn, but for me it turned into a traditional purchasing process that started in a different place than it usually had. Meetings, e-mails, phone calls — that is standard. The whole process — from adding the post to signing the contract — I closed within a month (including the demo). So for me it is a huge advantage. I was able to focus on other projects in the company that I was implementing. I was even surprised how quickly the project of selecting such a large device can be closed. Previously, without LinkedIn, I had to look for a contact on the website, write out a contact form in which I was required to provide information that I did not want to provide. In addition, the response time to such contact is also often extended, but in this case, the process took place in an express mode. I would like to add that one of the suppliers contacted me after a month, when I had already signed a contract with Canon 

KS: Did you use other supplier search channels as part of this purchasing process? 

MW: No, LinkedIn was the only channel.

KS: So it means that if the salesperson was not on LinkedIn, his chance of winning this contract was zero. 

MW: That's right.

KS: Referring to the ease of reaching salespeople, you confirm what I have noticed on the market and what is also confirmed by research, which is that customers have difficulties in the purchasing process, specifically at the level of contact with suppliers. These are bizarre situations because behind the door of the sales department of the same company, the salespeoples’ phones are burning up. In this case, in addition to the contact being easily accessible, customers experience greater security in making a decision when the contact is recommended to us.

MW: This is exactly what happened in my case. The comments on the post are one thing, but in private messages, I received not only positive information, but also information that helped me eliminate certain solutions and people. 

KS: In the face of such information, I once again think that the change in the use of social media by decision-makers will drive the quality of services provided. Everything suddenly becomes transparent. 

MW: Yes — and this is another big advantage from my point of view. People who wrote to me were usually friends of mine, so it had a big impact. I know them, my confidence in their recommendations was high, so their opinions were very important to me. 

KS: Can we estimate how the use of LinkedIn in this purchasing process has shortened its time? 

MW:  Sure. The standard process would take me about 3 months, in this case it took one month, so I cut the process by two-thirds. Time is extremely important today. Now, from my perspective of the completed process, I can say that in the future, I will make further purchases, and not only in the area of printing machines. 

KS: I have been closely following LinkedIn for several years, through the conscious eye of a social selling consultant for a year and a half. I see that posts of this type don't appear very often in Poland yet. Do you see these types of posts from your friends?  

MW:   Indeed. Sometimes they do, but not yet very often. But in my opinion, it will change. I have reached people whom I did not know before in a very short time and I am convinced that the benefits I experienced will contribute to this change. If you try it once, you will feel it in your own skin. Friends in the network of friends will also see it, so the network's snowball effect will inspire them to use this form of searching for suppliers. 

KS: I really enjoy listening to this, because when I said two years ago that such times would come soon, people watched with disbelief. Marek, now I will gladly go beyond the LinkedIn area and ask you about your cooperation directly with the salespeople. What made you decide to buy a device from Canon? 

MW:  First of all, the most important thing for me was time. Monika from Canon was with me on the second day. In general, I act quickly and I don't like it when I feel that the process is being inhibited at the supplier or salesperson level. My boss and our entire organisation work the same way. The second important aspect for me was the professionalism of Monika (sales manager) and Krzysztof (technical support). Their experience and substantive knowledge gave me the feeling that I was in "good hands", matching the offer to real needs preceded by good analysis and, more importantly, I had the feeling that the Canon team really wanted to help me, not just sell their device. At the next step, more quick and professional demo organization again. I was able to be sure of my decision because what I had only talked about before, I could now really test it. The decision that we needed an in-house machine for mass printing was preceded by an emergency we had when printing outside. I was responsible for it, so it was a big problem for me, which was solved quickly and efficiently.

KS: In general, how are the activities of salespeople at your address on LinkedIn? How and how often do salespeople contact you today through this channel?

MW:  They make contact quite often. I see two ways of working. One is fine for me and the other is unacceptable. The latter is based on the fact that the salesperson sends me an invitation without any information (I try not to accept such information), and then the "offer" in the message. But there are also people who act in a professional manner — they inform me as to why they are inviting me as well as initially show any benefit from such contact. Sometimes I look at the profiles of people to see if they are hunters who work in the "target pal" mode or share interesting content. I normally accept salespeople who share content. 

KS: As we are talking about content, what would a salesperson have to publish for you to find it interesting?

MW:  For example, some interesting "user stories" or "case studies" from the IT area shown in an interesting way. I am also interested in technological novelties, news or industry curiosities not related to a given company or product. For example, I like to be up to date with articles about digital transformation, blockchain and security. 

KS: And once you accept an invitation to connect from a salesperson, what happens next?

MW:  I have fewer and fewer meetings. Most often I make an appointment with someone for a video or phone call. It is much more convenient for me than face2face meetings, for which I have to reserve more time, a room etc. Sometimes it is problematic because something pops up a moment earlier and then it is easier to move the call 15 minutes or so than a live meeting. In an on-line meeting, we can discuss exactly the same things as in a live meeting, so I am a supporter of this solution. This does not rule out meetings completely, of course, but saves several steps. 

KS: What you've told me now is another local confirmation of my way of thinking about the sales process. Foreign research shows that 60% of B2B customers do not want to contact a salesperson. This is due to several things: 1. No greater value than possibilities achieved through independent online research; 2. Salespeople still often act in an "aggressive mode" 3. Salespeople come unprepared for the first meeting and ask questions that irritate the client. Those that ask good and strong questions during the first call will arrive at the first meeting well prepared and to the point.

MW:  It is exactly as you say. This was the case with the purchase from Canon. Monika came already prepared for the meeting because earlier she asked me a series of questions during a telephone conversation. Thanks to this, the meeting was quick, substantive and specific. This is also how the whole process turned out. 

KS: I'm glad then. The last question. Which salespeople do you like to work with?

MW:  First of all, the content is important to me. They need to know the topic they come to me with. I do not mean like the level of an engineering expert, but I like it when a person knows what they are talking about because it results from their experience of working with clients. It is also important for me to understand my situation and real need. I do not accept a situation where someone is trying to sell me something just because a new model has come out… or there is some new promotion. 

KS: Marek, we've reached the end of our conversation. Thank you very much! It’s a piece of interesting knowledge (straight from the decision-maker) that is not just for salespeople. I am convinced that you will be an inspiration for many IT managers who can, just like you, benefit from digital tools in their purchasing processes. 

MW:  Thank you Kasia for inviting me. 

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