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Searching for Qualified Suppliers (Step 4) After the specifications have been written, the customer looks for potential suppliers. The customer may simply contact previous suppliers or go through an extensive search procedure: do a Web search, read customer reviews online, down- load case studies and position papers, and call customers found on a list on the potential suppliers' website. In fact, Forester (a research company that competes with Gartner) has found that 74 percent of business buyers gather at least half of the information needed to make a decision before ever speaking to a salesperson. 7 Acquiring and Analyzing Proposals (Step 5) In step 5 qualified suppliers are asked to submit proposals. Recall that Bill Dunne earlier described how he attended a pre-proposal meeting with the buyer so that he and competitors could get questions answered before preparing their proposal. Then Dunne went to work with people in his company to develop their proposal. In many instances, propos- als are slide presentations delivered by the salesperson over the Web through Webex, Zoom, or some other form of online conference call. In Dunne's case, it was e-mailed as a PDF and reviewed by the buyer privately, without Dunne's involvement, prior to a meeting with the buying company's executives. Evaluating Proposals and Selecting a Supplier (Step 6) Next, the customer evaluates the proposals. After a preferred supplier is selected, further negotiations may occur con- cerning price, delivery, or specific performance features. Placing an Order and Receiving the Product (Step 7) In step 7 an order is placed with the selected supplier. The order goes to the supplier, who acknowledges receipt and commits to a delivery date. After the product is shipped, the buying firm inspects the received goods and then pays the supplier for the product. During this step salespeople need to make sure the paperwork is correct and their firm knows what has to be done to satisfy the customer's requirements. In many instances, the customer may be responsible for placing the order through a secure website. Evaluating Product Performance (Step 8) In the final step of the purchasing process, the product's performance is evaluated. The evaluation may be a formal or informal assessment made by people involved in the buying process. The supplier is also evaluated on such characteris- tics as whether the billing was accurate, how quickly service calls were handled, and similar criteria. Salespeople play an important role in this step. They need to work with the users to make sure the product performs well. In addition, salespeople need to work with purchasing agents to ensure that they are satisfied with the communi- cations and delivery. This after-sale support ensures that the salesperson's product will get a positive evaluation and that he or she will be considered a qualified supplier in future procurement. This step is critical to establishing successful long-term relation- ships. (Building relationships through after-sale support is discussed in more detail in Chapter 14.) Buying Processes Vary Not all buying decisions go through all of these steps. These are much more likely in a very complex purchase, and very unlikely in a straight repurchase of supplies. We'll discuss these differences later in this chapter. 66 CHAPTER 3: Buying Behavior and the Buying Process

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