Don't ask stakeholders what they want, buyers told

11 November 2010

11 November 2010 | Lindsay Clark

When buying consultancy services, purchasing teams should never ask stakeholders what they want, a former procurement director at BT has said.

Such is the difficulty in gaining traction with stakeholders in the category of consultancy, procurement professionals need to be more canny in their approach, said Paul Vincent, now managing director of Insight Sourcing Solutions.

Vincent was speaking at the Consultancy Purchasing Group event The Knowledgeable Buyer - What Difference Would It Make? in London yesterday. He told buyers they should watch which senior figures are moving within their firm, and anticipate what kind of help they may need in terms of consultancy. That would help them understand what information to offer stakeholders, he added.   

“Never ask them what they want,” he said. “Never go in and say ‘How can I help you?’ What you need to do is go in and say: ‘This is what I understand about your needs, and this is how I can offer you value’.

“If you do that with the people that you need to, someone who takes over a new area for example, and you’re giving them some information they don’t have, and all of a sudden you become a trusted adviser. But it’s not an overnight thing, you’ve got to keep at it.”

Buyers were told they should be aware that consultants are often brought in at short notice, which means stakeholders sometimes fail to assess the risks. This is another opportunity for procurement to add value, he said.

“[Stakeholders] really are just focused on the immediate requirement and won’t think of insurance, indemnity, or intellectual property. They won’t think about that because all they want is someone that is going to help them. If you can highlight some of the things that they are taking a risk on – how vulnerable are they by going down a particular path, couched in business terms – then in my experience you get some traction.”

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