Some of you know that I post quite a bit about working with procurement. There are a couple reasons. First, it’s mostly a painful and dreaded experience for those of us who sell. Second, because we’ve been consulting for over 20 years to both buying and selling teams, this practice has provided deep insight into the nature of that relationship.
I want to share an experience from last week. We brought together sales and sales leaders, as well as a chief procurement officer and two of his buyers. In this day-long session, a great deal was learned from both sides. It was one of the most gratifying sessions I have facilitated in a long time as the value was extremely high for all.
The primary take-away is that we (sellers and procurement) have way more in common than we think. In my opinion, our two functions are nearly a mirror image of one another, and a closer partnership has value for both sides. The understanding and common ground reached in this session produced results for the sales team, including:
- Their confidence in dealing with procurement went way up.
- Their ability to change the conversation from acquisition price to one of value and total cost of ownership soared.
- They learned enough about the procurement function that they are now able to speak the language of procurement and consider them a valid business stakeholder, versus someone to avoid at all costs.
Still don’t believe that sellers and procurement have things in common? Check out a few of the areas where we align:
MEETING CUSTOMER NEEDS
The primary function of a sales rep is to both understand, and in many cases, lead the customer to better understand their needs. Not only understanding their needs as it relates to “what is,” but leading them to what “could be.” Procurement professionals care about the needs of the business stakeholders just as sales professionals do. Furthermore, they not only want to understand, but also lead the conversation. This is a great area for us to work together.
SHARE OF SPEND
We care about gaining greater wallet share from our clients, procurement cares about capturing greater share of spend. We both accomplish this by meeting the business needs better than alternatives. Buying professionals want “the business” to funnel more transactions through them as well. The business will do this if they see a win in it for them beyond price. Again, our goals are aligned here.
ALIGNMENT WITH STRATEGY
Procurement professionals are being pushed to source in a way that helps the business execute strategy. As sales professionals, we also understand that “strategy drives spend.” If we can show our customers how our solutions help execute strategy they will spend! Procurement increasingly is focused on sourcing in a way that helps execute strategy and business initiatives. We can help one another with these connections.
We all know that some customers are better than others. Those that simply spend the most don’t necessarily become our best customers. We want customers that align with our ideal customer criteria and use our services in a way that builds brand equity. Likewise, procurement organizations, on average, do not buy the lowest priced solution (regardless of what they say to us!). They care about total cost of ownership and overall customer satisfaction.
This is just a sample of the rich dialogue that happened in the session. If you’d like to learn more about running one of these sessions in your organization, please drop me a note.