Procurement is also Sales

We’ve all been there.

We’ve just spent ages fine tuning the commercials and the small print and have negotiated a great deal for our business.

We feel a million dollars. We may also have saved a million dollars.

We’ve certainly  provided the business with all the value they will ever need. The concerns over quality have been addressed. The level of service we can now expect will be a step change from what we’ve been used to.

But despite all this, the business just don’t seem to “get” it.

Why aren’t we being held aloft in the air with our very own victory parade?

The answer to this conundrum is that quite simply because procurement are often lousy at sales.

We’re good at buying stuff. That should be self evident from our job titles. We are Buyers, Heads of Procurement, Strategic Sourcing experts.

And when it comes to negotiation, no-one can beat us right? We are Ninjas! Gurus! We are fearless, relentless and creative problem solvers and we can always get to a “yes”.

Apart from the time we got fleeced in that market in Turkey, but we NEVER talk of that…..

But procurement is not just about procurement. It is also about sales.

Procurement simply have to be great salespeople as well.

This is not as much of a stretch as it sounds.

Much of selling is about influencing. For starters, procurement have to influence our suppliers on a regular basis. To persuade them to support us with our latest initiative, to help us with our sustainability objectives, to review our previously agreed contracts and commercials.

But we’re used to that.

However – equally, if not more importantly, procurement have to also be able to “sell” the deal to our internal customers.

Of course normally this is a very a nuanced type of selling and not so much a process which involves needing to “close”. Perhaps its a form of marketing instead.

Call it what you will, we definitely do need to convince our stakeholders that what we are “selling” is what they need.

Consider if you will the basic process of a salesperson and how it overlays with what procurement need to do with our internal stakeholders.

First off, find qualified prospects. For procurement, that’s a slam dunk here with internal customers. Prospects here equate to internal stakeholders. They are all “qualified” with the ability to choose to be compliant with your deal or not.  Tick.

Next is development of rapport. This can take time. To do this properly, with authenticity, it can take a LOT of time. For many procurement people this softer skill is often a lot harder than many of the technical skills they spend so long perfecting.

With developing rapport comes understanding. Simply listening to what is important to the prospect is really important here. Getting to understand a prospect’s pain points is a crucial part of what a salesperson does. As it should be for procurement with their stakeholders.

And when the rapport is established & the pain identified, the expert in sales can then present the credible solution to their problems, which just so happens to be what they are selling! Ta-Da!

The credible solution to their pain, from a credible person in a credible company (or in procurement’s case, department)

THAT’S what procurement need to do with their internal customers. NOT simply turn up, offer them something they are not convinced they need and then feel irritated when they don’t later consume it.

To me, that’s sales.

Daft as it sounds, procurement is not just procurement.

It is also sales.