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Purchasing and Problem Solving Applications

What Are Needs?
Needs Go Beyond Products and Services
RFPs and RFQs Are Needs, Too
Purchasing Managers Aren't The Only "Buyers"
Purchasing and Problem Solving on The Lead Generator
Purchasing 101: Reducing the Cost of Commodities
Saving Time and Money on Complex Items
Pre-Qualifying Vendors
Shopping
Problem Solving: Finding Strategic Alternatives
Purchasing 102: Finding Vendors and Solving Problems Creatively
Summary

Introduction

Reducing your company's costs and solving business problems are among The Lead Generator's most important applications. And it achieves this in an extremely cost-effective and time-saving manner, all while actually helping you increase your sales and grow your business.

How the concepts of saving money and increasing sales are linked is explained elsewhere in the documentation, so we won't go into detail about it here; but suffice it to say that if you use The Lead Generator to find and qualify vendors, issue RFPs, and look for solutions to your company's business needs, then you'll also have the side-benefit of enabling your salespeople to find lots of great new sales leads at the same time, which will lead directly to increased revenue for your company.

This section of the User's Guide will help you do your job, in particular focusing on attracting multiple vendors who will compete for your business on the basis of price, quality and service -- which are the keys to reducing costs, improving quality, and enhancing profitability.

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What Are Needs?

The first thing to understand is what we mean by your company's Needs, since they are what purchasing managers and other buyers are assigned to meet, and what The Lead Generator is exceptionally good at satisfying.

In a general sense, Needs are all of the products and services that a company buys (or intends to buy,) in order to fulfill its mission. This includes everything from pencils and paper clips to computers and raw materials. It also includes personnel, professional services, plant and equipment, and virtually anything else that your company may spend money on.

In fact, the easiest way to think of what constitutes a need is to think in terms of the subcategories on your company's Accounts Payable list. Everything that you buy is either a product or service that someone else sells, and that appears in your ledger.

With The Lead Generator you can publish these needs (anonymously, if you wish,) in order to attract multiple vendors who will compete with each other in order to be able to satisfy them.

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Needs Go Beyond Products and Services

But the Needs of your company probably go far beyond just what you buy, or intend to buy. This is because those purchases are most likely the end result of some decision-making process that you went through. At the root of each decision was a problem that you were trying to solve.

These problems might include supporting daily operations, or they might concern an extraordinary situation like new product development, changing processes, responding to industry, regulatory, economic or competitive forces, or the discovery of a new customer need or market segment that your company wants to target. What it will take to address these problems often will ultimately be able to be expressed as (and satisfied by) some product or service, or doing something differently, but in its early stages it may be nothing more than an awareness that there is "something wrong."

In The Lead Generator, these problems are Needs, too. And, as you will see, The Lead Generator gives you a powerful means of identifying potential solutions and strategic alternatives for them quickly, inexpensively and painlessly.

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RFPs and RFQs Are Needs, Too

Another category of Needs are RFQs and RFPs.

For many companies the process of defining a problem and soliciting bids for a specific solution is done through a formal RFQ (or Request For Quote,) process. Given the definition that we are using, these RFQs are statements of Need, as well.

Likewise, many companies use the RFP (Request For Proposal,) process when they don't know the solution, but want to attract companies that can propose solutions. It should not be much of a stretch of the imagination to include these in the definition of Needs, as well.

The goal of these processes is to inform potential vendors of your company's needs, and to attract multiple qualified vendors who will compete on the basis of price, quality and service in order to provide a cost-effective solution.

As you will see, publishing these on The Lead Generator is a fast and inexpensive way to achieve this end that saves time as well.

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Purchasing Managers Aren't The Only "Buyers"

Parallel to the question of defining a Need, another aspect of the purchasing problem is: Who owns the Need?

In most companies, there is usually a purchasing manager (or department,) an office manager, or controller who is responsible for qualifying vendors and making purchases that satisfy the companies' Needs. But these people are rarely the ones who initiate the process, or actually "own" the Need.

Instead, very often these people are acting as surrogates for other line and staff organizations who will actually use the product or service. This may include operations, research, marketing, development, shipping, maintenance, management, or any of a wide variety of organizations who will benefit from a solution.

So while the purchasing manager may be the interface with the vendor community, and may even have selection criteria of his own that he or she needs to impose on the purchases, many other people also have a stake in the purchases and the implementation of solutions brought in by other companies.

As you'll see, these people can -- and should -- use The Lead Generator to get their Needs defined, posted, and met quickly and cost-effectively.

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Purchasing and Problem Solving on The Lead Generator

If you accept this definition of a Need, and who the stakeholders are, then the rest of this document can explain some of the ways that this broader definition of buyers can use The Lead Generator to solve this broader definition of Needs.

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Purchasing 101

Application:

Reducing the Cost of Commodities

Strategy:

Post Your Company's Needs in the Needs Portion of the Data Base

Explanation:

The basic process for attracting qualified vendors is to list what your company needs to buy in the Needs portion of the data base. You do this by selecting "Needs" from the Main Menu, and then selecting "Update Your Company's Needs" from the Needs Menu.

Instructions accompanying each menu will you tell you how to select SIC Codes that represent the commodities (i.e. products and services,) that your company buys, or intends to buy. By your publishing this list in the data base, vendors who sell those products and services will be able to "find you" in order to offer you better prices and service in competition with your current vendors, and with each other.

Besides attracting multiple vendors, this approach reduces your risk (because you publish these Needs anonymously,) and it saves you time - since you won't have to meet with the vendors until and unless you've pre-qualified them online.

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Providing a Little More Detail

Application:

Saving Time and Money on Complex Items

Strategy:

Post A Description of the Requirement in Leads

Explanation:

Although there are literally thousands of SIC Codes in the system that you can use, sometimes it is helpful to provide a fuller explanation of the Need than can be handled with a simple SIC Code. You might need to provide specifications, quantities, delivery requirements or service attributes to vendors to be sure that you get what you want.

The easiest and most powerful way to do this is to publish it in the Leads portion of the data base. Leads provides you with the ability to enter the specification in a "free-text" format, so you can say virtually anything you want, including posting an RFP, an RFQ, or even just a problem description, as well as contact information if you want.

It's a good idea, by the way, when publishing in Leads, to also provide a list of keywords that will make it easier for vendors to find the lead when they're searching. And be sure also to check your Messages frequently so you can respond to their solicitations in a timely manner.

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Pre-Qualifying Vendors

Application:

Saving Time

Strategy:

Pre-Qualify Vendors via Messsages

Explanation:

One of the biggest problems for most purchasers is the amount of time it takes to meet with vendors in order to qualify them. As alluded to earlier, by doing this online, you can save time, money and inconvenience.

The Lead Generator is a lot like an online trade show in that it enables you to pre-screen a lot of vendors quickly, in an environment where you are under no pressure to buy. With The Lead Generator, by posting Needs and Leads you are announcing your interest (or, more likely, your potential interest,) in solving certain problems. You can then conduct a no-pressure dialog with multiple vendors (using the Messaging susb-system,) to determine if you want to spend more time with them, saving you time and money, from the convenience of your own computer.

Remember, though, to observe the basic elements of Netiquette, which includes responding to your Messages, even if it's to say, "No, thank you."

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Shopping

Application:

Online Shopping From The Convenience of Your Own PC

Strategy:

Browse Products & Services

Explanation:

Rather than waiting for vendors to come to you, with The Lead Generator you can reach out to potential vendors easily and quickly, without risking exposure, or being pressured to buy.

All you have to do to locate vendors is to Browse Products & Services to find vendors who make and/or sell the products and services you are seeking. Then, when you find some, simply send them a Message request for more information. You can also browse Ads, and Promotional Statements, to do the same thing.

You don't have to tell them who you are until you feel they need to know. It's then, when you've decided that you might want to do business together, that you might want to exchange phone numbers.

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Problem Solving

Application:

Finding Strategic Alternatives

Strategy:

Describe the Problem in Leads

Explanation:

As we all know, vendors are among the best sources of advice in business. And with The Lead Generator, you can solicit this advice in an environment that minimizes risk and hassle, and maximizes your opportunity to get a solution that will meet your needs.

If you describe your problem in Leads, using a keyword list at the end of the text to be sure that you attract enough potential vendors, you will receive solicitations and ideas from vendors, some of whom will truly be able to help you solve your problem.

And remember, you're under no obligation to buy -- just like in the real world. But the advice, which is free, can be worth its weight in gold.

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Purchasing 102

Application:

Find Vendors and Solutions Creatively

Strategy:

Make Inferences

Explanation:

Companies that are aggressive in reducing costs and implementing improvements in their products, services, and prices don't wait for ideas to come to them. In the competitive marketplace of today, companies that want to be on the winning end of the market share graph seek out new ideas and better ways of doing things, without waiting for the phone to ring.

The Lead Generator lets you do this quickly and creatively, without risking exposure, or causing you to spend a lot of time in meetings. And it doesn't cost any extra, since you pay the same no matter how long you use the system.

By Browsing Ads, Needs, Products & Services, Leads, and Promotional Statements, and making inferences about who might be able to help, you can take charge of your growth.

Seek out solutions, because the next person knocking at the door might just be your competitor!

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Summary

There are many ways to use The Lead Generator to save your company time and money, and to improve your quality and competitiveness while protecting your proprietary information. The key is how seriously you take these objectives.

This section of the User's Guide hopefully introduced some ideas on how you can use The Lead Generator to attract multiple vendors who will compete on the basis of price, quality and service, but your creativity is crucial. Spending a few minutes a day on the system, posting your ideas, and interacting with the vendor community is the best way to reach out and make it happen.

At the same time, remember that when you use the system, you are also helping your company to increase its sales. This is because your company's salespeople can't use the system unless you do, too. That is, they can't use the system to promote your company's products and services unless you use it as a buying tool. But that's a "win-win," isn't it?

Finally, we take the purchasing application very seriously at The Lead Generator, and want to do whatever we can, including enhancing the system, to make it better for you. So please feel free to let us know what we can do to .

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