PODCAST 46: How to leverage Procurement in Sales w/ Donna and Chris Donato

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with wife and husband duo, Chris and Donna Donato, who founded the Same Side Sales Movement, focused on bringing enterprise buyers and sellers together to drive business innovation.

Donna is a career procurement professional currently at American Express and Chris is a career enterprise seller. Between the two of them, they walk us through how to properly engage a true enterprise and deliver outstanding sales results at any level.

If you missed episode 45, check it out here: PODCAST 45: The Secrets of Building and Leading a Sales Team w/Brian Birkett from LeanData

What You’ll Learn

  • How to leverage procurement to drive sales
  • Which factors are negotiable as a new vendor into the Fortune 1000
  • Why procurement can operate as an ally
  • How to use transparency to improve your conversations
  • Why we should be measuring the 2nd meeting frequency vs the 1st meeting frequency

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:09]
  2. About Chris & Donna Donato: An Introduction [02:23]
  3. What Is the Same Side Movement? [06:04]
  4. Mindfulness [08:40]
  5. Transparency [11:53]
  6. How to Reach out to Procurement [13:38]
  7. Mitigating Sales Risks [20:04]
  8. The Power of “No” [28:36]
  9. Sellers and Buyers Pulling in Tandem [38:08]
  10. Sam’s Corner [50:12]

Sales Hacker Podcast—Sponsored by Chorus and Outreach

Sam Jacobs: Hi everybody, it is Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. I am the founder of The Revenue Collective, and I’m also the host of this podcast.

We’ve got a really interesting show for you this week.

Chris and Donna Donato have started a consulting movement, focused on bringing buyers and sellers to the same side of the table; it’s called the Same Side Movement. If you want to understand what procurement is, how to navigate procurement, and how to use procurement to your advantage, this is the episode for you.

Now, before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors. The first is Chorus.ai. Chorus records transcribes, and analyzes business conversations in real-time to coach reps on how to become top performers. So check out chorus.ai/saleshacker to see what they’re up to.

Our second sponsor is Outreach.io. They are the leading sales engagement platform. Outreach supports sales reps by enabling them to humanize communication at scale and by automating the soul-sucking manual work.

Outreach is running Unleash 2019. This is the great sales engagement conference and it’s going to take place March 10th-12th in San Diego. Hop over to unleash.outreach.io and use the code, SHPOD, to save $100 off your ticket.

Finally, I hope that you’ve been nominating people for the Sales Hacker Top 50 awards. Please nominate your colleagues or yourselves. Winners will be featured on this podcast and will receive exciting prizes. You can nominate at saleshacker.com/nominate.

About Chris & Donna Donato: An Introduction

Sam Jacobs: The two folks that we’ve got on the show today are Chris and Donna Donato. Donna is the VP of strategic sourcing and business enablement for global supply chain management at American Express, but the views she expresses here are her own. Chris is the founder of Esellas, which is a consulting organization. Most recently he was VP of global sales at DXC, where he was responsible for sales and revenue of the company’s 1.2 billion dollar business process services unit.

They’re not just husband and wife, they come at sales, particularly enterprise sales, from opposite sides of the table. They each represent buyer and seller. And they’re going to talk to us about strategies for sales when you’re working through a procurement process with a large enterprise. They call this movement the Same Side movement. So Chris and Donna, welcome to the show. Tell us who you are.

Donna Donato: I’ve been a buyer all of my life. I came from Russia to study in the United States. After that, I joined a number of companies. Large healthcare pharma companies and then American Express running, establishing strategic sourcing procurement organizations, and managing billions of dollars of expenses, solving business problems, and really enjoying it.

Chris Donato: I’ve worked for some of the largest companies like HP and Accenture, and have had my own hand at startups. Always in some form or fashion in sales and growing businesses.

What Is the Same Side Movement?

Sam: You’re working on this concept called the Same Side Movement. Walk us through the core tenets, the core principles, and give us an idea of this philosophy when it comes to bringing together buyer and seller.

Chris: It originated around the dinner table. It started with frustration. Why do you do this and why do you do that? We became much better at what we did, buying or selling, as we learned from one another and listened to the other side. So that was the core and we thought, we’re really learning and becoming more effective. How can we turn this into something codified? Between the two of us, we’ve structured hundreds of deals and have been responsible for billions of dollars, so we started to put together a platform.

Donna: There were really three things that we thought if we could change, would make our interactions much more productive and enjoyable.

  • Be purposeful and mindful about everything that you do.
  • We say business is not personal, but it really is. Understand who’s motivated, what drives the transaction.
  • Build trust. Trust is everything. We anchored on transparency as being the major driver of trust.


Sam: When you say be mindful about your approach and actions, give us an example.

Chris: There is a lot of pressure to do more. More outreach, cast a wide net, cover a large territory and see what comes back. You can go on LinkedIn any day and see people griping about the impersonal approach to prospecting. You’re not mindful about who you’re approaching and why. Well, the common antidote for that is “do your homework.” It’s beyond personalizing a message. How many sellers out there are listening to earnings calls, reading 10Ks, diving deeply into prospective customers’ businesses, to really look for those pinpoints and using all of that insight into a very thoughtful, mindful reason why you think you can help this customer solve a problem or achieve an opportunity. That isn’t happening.

Donna: I get emails every single day from companies saying we need to meet. I used to just ignore them, but I started responding, tell me why. You’re asking for my time, let’s be thoughtful for both of us not to waste time; tell me why should we meet.


Sam: Your third principle is to strive for a radical level of transparency. Tell us what you mean by that.

Chris: We have a tendency to want to tell a compelling story and be bold. Again it’s cultural, it’s the business we operate in, and we like to make certain claims of savings we can drive or big claims about what our product can do. That is not transparency, that’s just trying to grab attention.

On the other side of that is being more clear about what you can and cannot do, how you fare against the competition, maybe even where you fall short to a competitor’s capabilities. We have a tendency to want to just fly through an objection or skate over a blemish. Those are opportunities to be human, be real, be transparent, and develop a higher degree of trust with your customer.

How to Reach out to Procurement

Sam: Donna, I think that’s interesting that people are reaching out to somebody in procurement. If we want to craft a message that’s relevant to somebody in your position, what should that message be?

Donna: I look at my function as this connector of external capability to the business. My team sits down every day to figure out what’s important and how external capability can help solve a business challenge or create an opportunity. My value is really driven by bringing the most relevant, capable suppliers to the table. The more I know what’s going on, especially from the competitive landscape standpoint, the more I understand how certain solutions could differentiate it, how it could fit into our ecosystem. Cost savings is one of the levers, but it’s not the most important one.

Chris: I’ve run large sales organizations where I’ve brought Donna in to talk about what’s going on for that progressive procurement mindset. We are all looking for that entry point. You’ve got figure out where is a great place to start.

RELATED: You Can’t Sell into the Enterprise Overnight

Mitigating Sales Risks

Sam: How do you balance the tension between the reality that innovation is coming from small companies that probably need to do business in a reasonable time frame versus the reality of the requirements both from a security and regulatory perspective that come with being a Fortune 100 customer?

Donna: You hit a good and very relevant point. Is this the right solution that will drive innovation and move the business forward? How does this fit into an ecosystem? What are the risks that this could potentially trigger? Any transaction introduces triggers at this level of review and it’s our due to review that most efficiently.

Chris: It’s an interesting strategy question as a seller. Know that you’re going to need a lot of inertia to overcome the challenges of selling within a large company. One strategy is to get the business really riled up and excited and find that champion who can drive something through an organization. I’ve seen sellers try that, but then ignore the rest of that internal buying ecosystem, which is not a smart strategy. You have to work with the buyer to figure out the implications to other systems and departments, and partner with them to figure out where those potential integration points and challenges are.

Donna works for this prestigious organization that’s taken many years to build this brand. There’s nothing that this firm will do to put that brand at risk. You as a seller have to be thinking, what risks do I introduce? You gotta think about that early and often and think about how you are helping the buyer address and mitigate those risks.

The Power of “No”

Sam: What’s your approach to the RFP process and how do you ensure that when you know you’re in a competitive sale, you’re still positioning yourself in the best possible way?

Chris: There are some telltale signs that an RFP is actually a smoke signal from a buyer that there’s a problem. Part of that is the level of access that you’re getting from the organization that you’re selling to; if you can’t talk to anybody else in the organization, they’re warning signs. Are they looking to get the right solution or is it a spreadsheet exercise?

There are vendor forums as a next step. Some people keep their questions to a minimum, to not give away competitive insights. When you go into those open forums and you’re bidding, you want to be the most knowledgeable person in the room. If you have insight, you should share, regardless of whether the competition has it or not. I think that positions you in a better light, that you’re out to solve the client’s problem.

One of the reasons people turn down an RFP is they don’t think they’re in a position to win, so they bail out. “No” is a very powerful tool in sales. We don’t use it enough.

Slow down, voice the concern, “I’m trying to develop a solution that exactly meets the needs of the business, and here’s where I think I’m going to fall short of that based on how you’re organizing this process. I’d like to be able to do it and here’s what I would ask in return for the investment of my time and my team’s resources.” We often feel that it’s a one-way street; you have to create a two-way street. You’ve got to cleverly, authentically establish, here’s what I need in order to give you what you’re looking for. If you’re not having that dialogue or they’re not willing to hear it, that is a clear red light.

RELATED: 5 Benefits of Helping Your Buyer in the RFP Process

Sellers and Buyers Pulling in Tandem

Sam: One of the things that you’ve talked about is that procurement and sales need each other. What value is each side providing to the other?

Chris: If the seller, as the curator of this buying experience, finds the right orchestrator on the buy side, and I think that can often be a procurement which has a broad, holistic perspective, together they can move the group of buyers from point A to point B.

Donna: When I think of my process map of what it takes for a deal to go from idea to purchase, it’s massive in terms of the inputs and people you need to talk to and sell to and get input from. There are mutual benefits for procurement because that’s our remit, to provide value to the enterprise. The way to do it is to bring the best capabilities, the right trusted partner that is transparent and effective.

Sam’s Corner

Sam: Hey everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs, this is Sam’s Corner, really interesting interview with Chris and Donna Donato, the husband and wife team that are part of the Same Side Movement.

  • Try to connect buyers and sellers – procurement specifically. You have to understand that the remit of the procurement team is to provide market intelligence and to provide transparency on the market ecosystem.
  • The idea of transparency – it is not procurement’s job to take your offer, run it through and get everything signed without understanding what the rest of the market is doing.
  • Bring procurement insights, intelligence, information – bring them into the fold earlier in the process and make sure they are part of the process.
  • There are two types of RFPs – a genuine truly competitive process, and paying lip service. Know the difference, and get out if it’s the latter.

At any rate, this has been Sam’s Corner, thank you so much for listening.

Don’t Miss Episode 47

If you wanna check out the show notes, see upcoming guests, play more episodes from our incredible lineup of sales leaders, visit gtmnow.com/podcast-subscribe. You can also find the Sales Hacker podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. If you enjoy this episode, please share with your peers on LinkedIn, Twitter, or elsewhere.

If you’ve got a great idea or a guest for the show, if you wanna get in touch with me, find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Finally, thanks again to our sponsors: Chorus the leading conversation intelligence platform for high growth sales teams, and Outreach the leading sales engagement platform. So Chorus and Outreach are the reason that we’re able to give you this amazing content. We’ll see you next time and I hope to see you at Unleash 2019 in March in San Diego.

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