Our Insights

Category Management: Is procurement really about de-programming kindness?

(What can sales teach procurement?)

On his first day as a procurement team member, a sales professional in a previous life, was heard to say:

“I’m going to have to de-programme my kindness”

As someone who has written about kindness in procurement, and others’ perceptions of procurement as wolves my interest was piqued.

Not least because, I believe it’s the stereotypical beliefs and roles we have about what procurement is that gets in the way of us truly providing value to our organisations.

Sandro Magrini has recently joined the FP team, and was sharing the positive impact having some sales professionals join his procurement team had.

After being assured that bringing all their experiences to their new role was encouraged, and not to leave kindness at the door, here’s the key insights they reinforced from their time with procurement:

Procurement is about selling
  • Selling the procurement, category management and supplier management processes to the organisation
  • Selling the procurement team to the organisation
  • Selling ourselves as individuals to our stakeholders
  • Selling category, sourcing or relationship strategies to internal stakeholders
  • Selling the organisation to suppliers

Which means selling is a key procurement competency, and should be developed, and certainly not ignored.

In category management workshops I certainly hear a lot of ‘us/them’ and ‘telling’ going on with very little selling. Sandro also observed that sometimes it feels like procurement has to go the other way and ask for permission rather than assume it has a right to be involved. It’s a tight rope of walking the continuum of assertiveness from competing to collaboration.

Selling involves
  • Linking facts and data to motivations
  • Selling the story – whether of how procurement can add value, or why the organisation should be the supplier’s preferred customer.
  • Consistency of message – having one script writer and ensuring everyone understands the script.
  • Understanding our competition – and what objections are you trying to address.
Selling procurement is improved when:
  • We [ step into their shoes ], and understand our internal stakeholders.
  • We step into the shoes of the end customer – ie how can procurement sell the needs of end customers to support procurement strategies (particularly useful for R&D, design/make/buy decisions, and when exploring where to build up the specification and where it doesn’t matter so much).
  • We conduct and learn from end of project reviews – it’s no use just having them written into the process if they never get done!
  • We actively learn from each other – monthly benchmarking and sharing of experiences. (sales teams are often incentivised to reuse customer proposals, and yet it can seem as if procurement start over and over time and again)
Selling our organisation is improved when
  • We stop being the ‘grumpy’ stereotypical tactical buyer.
  • We speak to our sales teams and ask them how they sell our organisation to customers – not just selling the portfolio of goods and services, but also the company and its vision.

Further reading:

Blog post: Procurement isn’t just about the process it’s about the people too

Blog post: Top 10 characteristics of a high calibre category manager

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