“Amazon-like” digital shopping experiences have changed the way the world views procurement. It’s keep up or get out of the way! As government procurement continues to evolve, online marketplaces offer the right mix of controls, easy user shopping experiences, and speedy service.
Think about the experiences offered by consumer marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart online, or Google Shopping. Marketplaces offer that type of e-commerce experience targeted to government agencies and their procurement needs. A marketplace is an online shopping destination that’s prepopulated with approved products, vendors, and prices for a specific organization—and, usually, employees can requisition what they need through the self-service process. A marketplace makes it possible for procurement teams and contracting officers to ensure their agency members are buying from approved suppliers and at on-contract pricing. It’s also possible to combine the convenience of self-service with the support of an assisted sales experience.
Here’s what public agency leaders need to know about assisted sales marketplaces and how they can improve your procurement experience.
What Is Assisted Sales?
Public sector marketplaces simplify procurement, often under a specific contract that allows agencies to purchase products or services from approved vendors. Some purchases may be simple, such as buying a specific brand of printer. Other purchases are not as straightforward. Buyers may have questions about software or technology, or need an expert recommendation to choose between two potential options in the marketplace. As a result, many public sector focused marketplaces have recognized the need to offer assisted sales resources, ranging from educational materials to sales consultants who can help buyers select the right application, technology, or other product for their needs.
Offering assisted sales resources helps further streamline the experience of online procurement. As Fintech News notes, U.S. agencies are leading the way globally and “are already tapping on online marketplaces for their procurement needs, and they will likely in turn feel an increasing pressure for usability and flexibility in their procurement processes as expectations of user experience rise across the board because of marketplaces like Amazon for government, as well as the individual procurement officer’s use of private sector marketplaces in their personal lives.”
In other words, if you’re excited about the possibilities of a marketplace featuring approved vendors, and you want a little more support, providers are putting the resources in place to simplify purchasing. From a public agency perspective, it allows you to streamline the buying process for your organization and ensure your employees have the resources they need to make smart decisions.
Assisted Sales Experts
A knowledgeable sales consultant can respond to your Request for Quotes with appropriate guidance. For example, consider what could happen if you need to purchase collaboration software for a project team. There are potentially hundreds of applications on the market. Narrowing down the best solution that integrates with existing systems, fits budget and security requirements, and has the specific features you’ve outlined takes time and research. A sales consultant can help you shop efficiently, by assessing your current technology, scoping your requirements, and recommending the software solutions that best fit your needs.
Many of the purchases made through marketplaces may be complex in nature, such as purchasing new hardware or investing in software. When you know exactly what you want, you can leverage the self-service features of the marketplace to find and procure those items. When multiple approved options are available, buyers sometimes need additional guidance to make the right choice.
Other Assisted Sales Tools
In addition to consultants providing sales support, there are a variety of other tools and types of support agencies can leverage. These include:
- Technology Support: Whether you’re using a self-service marketplace for the first time and need training on how to find something or have questions about payment, technical support makes it easier to navigate the marketplace experience.
- Educational Materials: In some cases, buyers simply want access to accurate information relevant to their experience. For example, an agency purchasing hardware may need specific information on what models meet security or performance standards. Educational materials can help provide a starting point for research.
- Order Status Tools: Automatic tools built into online marketplaces make it easier to get information about orders. For example, SEWP-V has a convenient “order status tool” to track progress of placed orders.
In some cases, online marketplaces may have a dedicated employee who can assist with particular areas or act as a dedicated agency account manager. For example, in a recent interview with FCW, it was noted that “SEWP has dedicated an employee to help agencies ensure compliance with Section 508—the federal law that mandates all IT developed, procured, maintained, or used by the government is accessible to people with disabilities.” This type of specialized expertise can enhance compliance, eliminate roadblocks to procurement, and improve the employee experience. If you’re in need of a specific type of support or advice, don’t be afraid to ask.
Leveraging a marketplace in your public agency procurement process can expedite requisitions and improve the buyer experience. It also introduces a new way to ensure compliance and budget controls. However, the self-service nature of an online marketplace doesn’t mean your employees have to go it alone. Today’s leading marketplaces offer a range of assisted sales solutions to simplify purchases and help your agency make smarter procurement decisions.