Last month, Inc. Magazine interviewed seven major companies to find out what their procurement executives are looking for and how to sell to them. The article has a lot of good tips; for example, don't send a proposal to UPS via FedEx. (Yes, people actually do that.) Every customer has guidelines that it follows for selecting vendors; Northrup Grumman, for example, looks for very targeted vendors who can deliver on time, while Intuit looks for financially stable vendors with deep expertise.
The key is that different customers are looking for different things, and what they're looking for often aren't the "speeds and feeds" of your product--it's your customer service, flexibility or financial stability. All too often, we try to sell on features and specifications and ignore our customers' other hot buttons. So, how do you find out what your customers want? Ask them! Inc. didn't have to hold guns to the heads of these procurement executives to find out what they want and don't want. Companies want to buy from vendors that will meet their needs, and if you fit into that category, you're ahead of the game before you even start selling. On the other hand, if you clearly don't qualify, you're much better off focusing on other customers.