If there’s one thing we can say for procurement, it is that we have a strong, closely-knit global community. This is a wonderful thing. It can limit our exposure, however, to a broad range of perspectives. Yes, some of us have spent time in marketing or operations, maybe even finance, but it is rare indeed to find someone that has practitioner experience in both procurement and sales (i.e., being a supplier, or worse, a vendor).
For the sake of this post, let’s say that suppliers are those people who take us out to nice meals, buttonhole us at conferences, walk us through endless powerpoint decks and demos, are always eager to show us an “amazing” new feature, and, ultimately, sit on the other side of the negotiating table.
They are also professionals who share the same desire we have to do well in our careers and generate value for our firms.
Last week, The AOP podcast was featured in an unlikely place: Account Manager Tips. This blog is written by an account manager (read: sales guy), Warwick Brown.
Warwick has spent his career looking after some of the world’s most prestigious firms, including Merck & Co, Deutsche Bank, McKinsey & Company and Vodafone.
The post, 3 Best Sales Podcasts Every Account Manager Should Listen To, recommends AOP alongside two traditional sales podcasts and highlights what he sees as the best episode of each. For ours he featured a great conversation with Kate Vitasek (Vested): The Art, Science & Practice of Crafting Strategic Supplier Relationships.
Surprised? I was!
Warwick clearly expected his readers to be surprised as well, as he described AOP as “an unexpected entry into a list of 3 best sales podcasts.”
Like us, sales people have their performance tracked and directed by various metrics and compensation packages. Apparently, incentives associated with bringing in new customers often dwarf the reward for keeping current customers satisfied. I wonder if sales professionals feel a level of frustration being “tied” to current customers that is akin to the frustration procurement professionals feel when being “tied” to savings.
So why did he chose to feature AOP? Warwick explains that he selected our podcast because it addresses the challenges of supporting existing customers and “[i]f you’re selling to buyers, then you kind of need to think like one.”
Leaving a Mark
Warwick clearly believes that engaging with procurement doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game; there doesn’t have to be a “winner” and a “loser.” The idea is to create relationships based on the notion of shared value (as Vested advocates). To accomplish this, we have to keep an open mind, be willing to engage in authentic and straight communication and be empathetic; particularly when we are challenged and the proposals seem to be at odds with what we believe to be the normal or usual thing to do. We could consider taking the long view, seeing these interactions as part of an infinite game.
A catalyst not intimately aware of the greater context in which she exists (i.e., inside a marketplace with myriad perspectives, choices, and long time horizons) cannot sustainably create value for her firm. Sure, she can cut a deal that saves the firm significant money but at what cost? Will implementation be slow, shoddy or not get done at all? What reputation will her firm begin to have in the market? Will she compromise the company’s drive to becoming a “client of choice?”
This is something we at AOP/Palambridge think a great deal about. It is a core reason we read, listen and research (thought) leadership from a number of angles as well actively pursue connections outside of procurement.
What would happen if we start listening to sales oriented podcasts, engaged in sales training, took a marketing or sales colleague to a good meal or attended conferences for sales professionals?
Some questions to ponder:
- When was the last time I read or listened or watched content that was intended for a different functional group, including sales?
- How well do I know the the long-term goals and short-term objectives of my suppliers? Of the individual account managers I work with?
- When an account manager for one of my suppliers is a source of frustration rather than support, is it due to some unresolved issue created by the negotiation? Some reason other than them just being contrary?
- Do I believe that the suppliers I deal with are legitimate subject matter experts or just trying to sell me something?
- Do I view (treat) my account managers in the way I would like them to see (treat) me?
Being a Catalyst
If you come across an article, whitepaper, video or podcast that you would like to share with your fellow catalysts, please send a quick email with the details. I read every email and am eager to read yours.
This Week in Procurement
- Four Phrases to Eliminate Today to Move Procurement Forward | Tim Cronin, CPO, Florida Blue / Guidewell
- Leading the Procurement Transformation | David Stowe, Director of Procurement, Purdue Pharma
- 3 Ways To Keep Up with the Social Media ‘Joneses | Kelly Barner, Buyers Meeting Point
- Innovation Isn’t About What You Control, But What You Can Access. The Procurement View | Bertrand Maltaverne, Ivalua
- 3 Big Changes Driving Procurement Hiring Trends in 2018 | Naseem Malik and Nick Lazzara, MRA Global Sourcing
This Week @ AOP
I have long admired Vodafone as being a pioneer in both embracing and supporting supplier enabled innovation and last year Vodafone partnered with the government of Luxembourg to launch what I believe is an innovative approach to working with smaller, growing, companies that they named Tomorrow Street.
I wanted to learn more about Vodafone’s approach, and so I invited Warrick Cramer, the CEO of Tomorrow Street, and Mark Perera, the CEO of Old St Labs and a Tomorrow Street partner, to join me on the show.
On launching Tomorrow Street, Warrick shared how he had a blank piece of paper in terms of where to position it within the Vodafone organization. I really enjoyed learning why he chose to partner with procurement, and the opportunity that he sees for procurement in facilitating and delivering supplier enabled innovation.
You can have a listen here