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Sales v. Procurement – 10 Ways to improve the procurement process

By Kevin Spencer, Enterprise Acquisition Manager at Telefónica UK

I consider myself lucky to have worked for organisations that pride themselves on sales training and solution selling. Rather than promoting a product or service and selling its features, I’ve been taught to work with the customer to explore their pain points and provide a solution that can relieve the issues, or even eradicate them completely.

Of course, there are some ‘dodgy’ sales people out there that give the profession a bad name. But the few bad should not stigmatise the many good, hard-working professionals striving to help organisations achieve their business outcomes.  We’re not just after your money!

Just like sales people, there are some great procurement professionals and some not so great. I see many ways in which organisations procure the services and products that they believe they require, but the most common approaches are;

  • Go to tender using in-house employees/expertise to write the requirements for the organisation
  • Go to tender using a third party to write the requirements for the organisation
  • Not go to tender and use existing relationships to suggest requirements for the organisation
  • Continue with the existing relationships and renew the product/service with incumbent

 So how can things be improved?

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, but from my experience, an organisation can go a long way within the procurement process to save time, cut costs and receive a more customised solution to get the best outcome for their business. The key steps that I would always encourage clients to take are…

  1. Research – Look at the market the service or product is in, and identify the thought leaders and innovators
  2. ‘Co-opertition’ – This means observing your competition! See what they do, and what works well and not so well
  3. Ask your employees – They are directly affected by all decisions and will provide key insights into better ways of working
  4. Early engagement – Engage with suppliers before a project is even defined. They will most likely provide ideas you haven’t even considered
  5. Set realistic timescales – The more realistic the timeframe, the better the solution will be
  6. Relationships – These are key. You might be working with suppliers for years, so be sure to meet executives and make sure you fit and build partnerships
  7. Meet your suppliers – before the tender process if possible, you can save a lot of work for both sides and also gain valuable insight
  8. Be fair – if there is an incumbent, they have the advantage, so make sure all information is fairly distributed
  9. Costs – Look at this as the last piece. If a supplier can win on every other element you should not exclude them based on cost
  10. Negotiate – Not just on price, but on product, services and support too.

We strive to be market leaders in vertical alignment, giving us the experience and knowledge to help organisations within specific industries. Early engagement in the buying cycle combined with a consultative approach allows us to build tailored solutions that meet individual business needs and build on their business outcomes. This can provide a “better fit” solution that perhaps might not have been initially considered by the procurement professional. When sales and procurement work together rather than against each other, it’s easier to keep abreast of employee needs and deliver the best solutions available.  Let me know your thoughts on sales and procurement alignment.  Get in touch via LinkedIn or visit our website to find out more about O2.

Ready to scale up your business? Call an O2 business specialist on 0800 028 0202 or call free from your O2 mobile on 8002.


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