I’m a firm believer that 80% of procurement’s role in an organisation, is earning the right to do some
Recently, consultancy The Hackett Group identified eight barriers to procurement transformation (What are the eight barriers to procurement transformation? – Supply Management (cips.org), and it just reinforces my instinct. No, perhaps it’s more like 90%. And it’s not even ‘transformation,’ it’s simply the day-to-day showing up and trying to do a great job in a great team.
I really liked Kavita Cooper’s (MD at procurement firm Novo-K) thoughts on overcoming those barriers.
Here are 3 of mine.
Team culture drives team performance
Start with sitting down as a team, thinking about and articulating ‘Why are we here, who are we, and what are we here to do?’ before diving into the work. (Check out ‘Drexler-Sibbet high performance’ on the search engine of your choice!) Teams who unite around a shared purpose and identity will feel like they are part of something, they will have a high degree of focus, trust and problem solving.
These teams can rely on each other, they are open to share ideas without fear, and they give and receive feedback for the good of their team, never from a position of ego. This is just the sort of commando unit you want to unleash into the complex and fluid landscape of delivering value for stakeholders.
Treat your procurement team like a brand
What do all brands need? Well, lots of things, but if we think of a typical sales funnel, first comes Awareness. Some internal procurement teams just don’t have awareness amongst the stakeholder
groups they serve, (let alone any consideration or preference), so why should we expect them to use our services?
Procurement teams who commit to take their message out into the stakeholder base in a structured and intentional way, will outperform teams who don’t, across any procurement metric you care to mention: savings, revenue, contract coverage, spend under management… my favourite? Go a step further, ask your stakeholders to do a NPS score twice per year!
Get obsessed about the stakeholder universe and what they need. What are they spending their money on? How does it tie to wider business needs? What problems or goals do they have?
Get yourselves an invite to the team meeting of a budget holder and demystify procurement for them. Ask for 5 mins to introduce yourself and what procurement is. Leave a couple of slides behind
so they can check back later. Then don’t be afraid to share things you’ve seen in the supply market that have relevance and immediacy based on what you know of the business and stakeholder needs:
keep that awareness high, and if you are timely, relevant, and open, you’ll quickly progress down that ‘sales funnel’ to working hand in hand.
Influencing and Persuasion
In procurement we’re supposed to be good at negotiating, right? If my 80-90% mentioned at the beginning is true, then it follows that a good chunk of this 80-90% is influencing the internal stakeholders to work with us.
Dr Cialdini, a professor of both psychology and marketing, explains that which we may intuitively recognise once we see his shortcuts to influence in black and white in a page: people work with people they like, who have authority on a subject, and who have done something for that person
already. (That’s 3 out of 6! Check the rest out more on Dr C here: Robert Cialdini – Wikipedia)
It follows that procurement needs to have the right amount of skill (through experience, coaching and previous work) to show a level of subject matter expertise, but simply showing up and offering to help or sharing ideas, will generate the sense of liking and reciprocity that also helps us get closer to the needs of the stakeholder, and a seat at the table to work on the ‘procurement stuff’ of RFIs, RFPs, supplier negotiations, contracts, etc
‘Trusted partner’ status does not come over night. Spend 90% of your time understanding what the business needs, what your stakeholders have to deliver; help them get to know you: how to engage
you, and the different types of value you can bring, then the projects will come, the savings will come, but just as importantly, the job will be a joy.
We can pay for all the training and coaching the company will give us. We can hire the most expensive consultancies and leaders, but if you are new to procurement or finding your way anywhere in business, just remember that people work with people they want to work with because they enjoy it, not just because there might be a business goal.
Ask, then listen. Be interested, show that you care and how you can help. The common ground will grow, and the resistance will evaporate.
If you work in procurement at a brand and would like to discuss how to optimise the relationship with stakeholders, to avoid and overcome any barriers to unleashing the full effectiveness of your procurement function, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Linked In
Stuart Dunk is a former marketing procurement lead at brands like Nike and Danone, and runs marketing procurement and marketing operations coaching and consultancy Don’t Forget to Look, where he now works with both brands and agencies to deliver better work, demystifying the who, what and why of procurement along the way.