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Strategic Procurement And Sales, On Parallel Paths

by David Brock on March 6th, 2019

Probably, ever since the first sale was made to a customer that involved a buying agent, procurement and sales professionals have viewed each other as adversaries.

Every time I talk to a sales person about procurement, eyes roll, a groan escapes their lips, and the nightmare begins, “All they are going to do is beat me up on price, they don’t understand, I’ve got to hit my numbers…. I don’t trust them…”

When I spoke to procurement folks, the story wasn’t very different, “My job is to cut costs and produce savings….. Sales people don’t understand this… I don’t trust them…”

It’s no wonder there has been this conflict between sales and procurement. Our goals are in conflict.

But, in recent years, there’s an amazing transformation going on in both sales and procurement. It turns out we are on parallel paths, but don’t know it, consequently we aren’t leveraging each other as effectively as possible.

The most forward thinking sales professionals realize that successful selling is really about helping the customer achieve their goals more effectively. We recognize we create value not just through how our solutions help the customer achieve their dreams and goals, but we help customers recognize they may be missing opportunities, inciting them to buy. We, also, recognize how difficult it is to buy–at least in complex B2B sales. We understand a large part of the value we create with the customer is in helping them navigate their buying journey/process.

There is a similar transformation occurring with procurement professionals. Where, historically, they have viewed their jobs as cost cutting, according to a 2018 Deloitte CPO Survey, only 20% of CPOs though cost reduction was important. Instead, 54% viewed supporting new product development as important, and 58% saw risk management as critical.

The survey states procurement should be seen as adding value within their organizations. Hmmm, sounds familiar…..

An EY study states, “By 2025, the leading procurement organizations will serve as a primary change for driving innovation ideas to/from a global supply base….” In doing this, we see huge shifts in behaviors and priorities in procurement organizations. Creating transparent supplier relationships, trust and collaborative partnerships. Working with internal stakeholders, creating customized value propositions, creating stakeholder experiences which “make it easy to do the right thing,” become critical drivers in procurement.

If you are getting a sense of deja-vu, this is what I and many others advocate about the future of sales and selling.

It seems leading procurement and sales practitioners are on parallel paths, yet don’t know it.

Imagine the possibilities if we start working together. What would happen if we start collaborating, being more helpful to our shared customers (internal stakeholders) and their ability to achieve their goals?

Sadly, progress is slow on both sides. Too many sales people focus only on their objectives and goals, pushing/pitching products to customers. Likewise, too many procurement professionals see their jobs as cost cutting.

But, this isn’t sustainable! I’ve been writing a lot about the concept of “turbulence.” The reality is all of us face tremendous disruption, changes, and turbulence. Global economies, shifting buyer preferences, market disroption, politics, changing societies, drive forcing functions impacting every organization.

Those that thrive are those that understand this turbulence, and are successful in helping their companies, their customers, and their suppliers successfully navigate that turbulence.

It seems sales and procurement have a lot of commonalities in how we can help our organizations and each other. We are on parallel paths, it only makes sense that we should be working much more closely.

Afterword: Much of this post was provoked by an outstanding article by Mike Blanchard, “The Future Of Procurement and Supply Chain.”


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