Are you meeting to strategise before the supplier meeting? ©Getty Images
Are you meeting to strategise before the supplier meeting? ©Getty Images

Procurement must teach stakeholders

8 June 2018

It’s up to you to get their buy-in to the negotiation techniques with suppliers and learn to buy smarter

“Our stakeholders make our lives a nightmare. They don’t include us early on with suppliers, and when we meet they are over-enthusiastic.” This kind of complaint comes up all the time, says Tim Jenkins of WheelSpinner Consulting, who shows procurement professionals how they are sold to and coaches them in how to combat these sales techniques.

It is not the fault of the stakeholder, he says. As the commercial expert, it is procurement’s role to teach, guide and, more importantly, to encourage the stakeholders to cooperate and control their buying signals. If you have already explained how to do it, and they still get it wrong, have you actually sold the reason not to do it well enough in the first place, he asks, and offers some pointers on how to get across the right message:

For example, when was the last time your commercial department ran an internal marketing campaign selling the benefit of engaging with you right from the off? Show stakeholders that involving you can help them get a great deal for the company and they will look good in the process.

If you do meet with your stakeholders, make sure you are not ‘warning’ them about how to behave but ‘selling’ to them the benefits of controlling their interactions. 

Do you meet with your stakeholders 10-15 minutes before you meet suppliers? Because that’s what the suppliers will be doing – they will be in Costa, around the corner from your office, at least half an hour before the meeting, game-planning what to discuss, who’s going to say what, and planning the outcomes from the meeting.

Suppliers expect the stakeholder to be enthusiastic and the commercial team quiet, slightly sceptical and playing the ‘bad-cop’. You playing the yang to the stakeholder’s ying. So, consider a different approach – throw the sales person off guard and take back control. This is about relationships – if the supplier likes you they will want to do well for you, so collaborate with them. To do this, you will need to get the stakeholder on side first. Say: “I want us to get the best outcome for you from this meeting. If you are too enthusiastic, I have to play bad-cop, which won’t get the best results. We need to watch our buying signals, and work together to control information flow and positive body language in front of the supplier.”

If the supplier finds the stakeholder and commercial team aligned, wanting to collaborate with them but not displaying buying-signals, they’ll want to do well as you’ve made an effort to build rapport, but they won’t know how well they have done. This puts you and the stakeholder in the driving seat.

A strong relationship between commercial departments and stakeholders is critical for successful negotiations with suppliers, but it can only happen if the commercial professional takes ownership and sells the benefits of engagement with you and your team, says Jenkins.

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