How well do you understand and work with your stakeholders? I’m not talking about your colleagues or management team, I’m focusing specifically on procurement as your customer.
If you’re in corporate sales or account management, there’s a good chance that one of your client-based stakeholder groups will be procurement.
I had a client in professional services share with me that they repeatedly encountered challenges when working with procurement. They found procurement would regularly withhold information, could be uncooperative, (sometimes aggressive) and has a strong focus on price and savings. Does that sound like your experience too?
You may work in professional services or travel, health care or heavy industry, perhaps agri-business or manufacturing – the same challenges inevitably arise.
What would it mean commercially if you understood procurement’s hopes, fears, passion, drivers and motivators? Not just corporately but personally. Not only could you build constructive commercial partnership, you could;
- Prevent accounts going to tender;
- Increase ‘wallet share’ with existing clients; and
- Improve the likelihood of winning additional business
Walking in Procurement’s Shoes
As with many aspects of our business and personal lives, if we are willing to take the time to understand someone else’s perspective, a world of potential can be opened.
Understanding leads to trust, trust produces transparency, transparency results in collaboration, which in turn is when mutual financial return is seen.
So what are the keys to understanding procurement?
- Procurement roles are not created equal: Be very clear who you are engaging. The Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), Procurement Manager, Category Manager or Procurement Analyst are not only roles with vastly different objectives, they also attract people with completely different skill sets and personality types. One size does not fit all. An individual sales strategy must be cast for each audience in procurement.
- Understand the dominant challenges: Procurement teams across almost every industry suffer a similar set of challenges – program sponsorship and support, internal adoption and commercial contribution. Make sure your solution identifies and resolves not just the challenge but also its source.
- The tender and negotiation process: Procurement professionals frequently speak of an ‘X’-Step procurement process from market analysis to solution embedding. Do you know it? The tender process is only one part of this cycle yet that is where sales interacts most frequently. How many tenders do you receive that are difficult to complete? Could you make it simpler, could you educate procurement in the art of building better tenders? After all, helping them is really helping yourself.
- Savings and the business case: Every procurement activity has a business case. Inevitably, many will have savings as one of the top deliverables. Have you stopped to ask ‘What’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’? What is the business case? Why is the engagement being performed? How are savings and ‘value’ being generated? You may be surprised by what you find.
- Love your client more than your product: Is the passion for your product greater than your care for your client? Procurement constantly fields calls from you and your competition. This can be wearing and can make procurement calloused toward the full value of what you offer. If what you do is not resonating with procurement, perhaps the focus has been less about them and more about you. To keep on the straight and narrow, make sure you ask them, ‘What can I do for you?’
- Be the advisor: If your business was an enabler for procurement, would that make a difference in retaining and winning accounts? Take the time to help procurement in the areas that they frequently struggle, injecting yourself as the advisor and confidant. Not only will you be able to help provide solutions to their challenges, you can write yourself into their strategy.
As a sales or account management professional, your goals may be to lengthen account life, retain or improve margins, perhaps increase new business conversions. The challenge for sales and account managers will often be procurement – the gate keeper and guard at the door. Take the time to understand them, really understand them. Come to terms with their hopes, fears, passion and motivation and evolve your solutions so they resolve procurement’s challenges.
After all, a win for procurement will be a celebration for you.
Like to know more?
Contact William for a chat if you’d like to know how Synthesis Group can help your sales and account management teams better understand procurement for greater top line growth.