14 February 2008 | Paul Snell
Buyers at law firm Eversheds are raising the profile of purchasing by attending meetings where colleagues pitch for new clients.
Taking on this "sales role" has helped improve the firm's commercial approach to deals and has given its lawyers a greater insight into how procurement operates.
"The first day we were in the pitch meeting when we were introduced, it was a 'if looks could kill' moment," said Jennifer Powell, head of procurement at the firm.
"It's a lack of understanding - they [the lawyers] usually see procurement people on the other side of the table. It's about demonstrating what you can do."
As procurement often sits on the "other side of the fence", the team has given the firm an insight into how buyers approach this type of meeting. "In one pitch a very senior person said the first thing we should say is, 'We can't reduce our prices'," said Powell. "I asked, 'Do you know what they want to achieve from the meeting? Because if they want to take out 5 per cent [in cost] you have just blown it'."
"It's explaining what a buyer would be thinking and how it would be received," adds Richard Blythe, senior buyer at the firm. "It's a really good concept, trying to extend our remit beyond the day-to-day focus of buying."
The expansion of procurement's responsibilities has been rapid - the firm did not have a purchasing function until two years ago. The team was initially set up to reduce costs on the firm's £130 million spend and improve its commercial acumen.