Purchasers hit back at sales at Churchill War Rooms

25 November 2011

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25 November 2011 | Angeline Albert

Senior purchasers yesterday hit back at sales people who accused the procurement function of squeezing suppliers on price.

In former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s underground fortress the Churchill War Rooms, from where he directed England’s strategy against Adolf Hitler, Larry Beard, procurement director at Tate & Lyle, led the battle against poor bidding practice explaining why prospective suppliers “screw up” their chances to win business. 

The debate took place at business improvement consultancy Blue Sky's ‘leaders in sales’ annual conference. Bidding managers said trying to win work from purchasers was frustrating because procurement professionals lack the technical expertise to know what to buy. In response, Beard, said: “Don’t make a technical sales pitch and expect me to understand it. Bidders must start a commercial discussion into how to add value to the business not a technical discussion.”

He said suppliers should have a unique selling point (USP) that purchasing wanted. Some sales professionals at the event retorted that lowest price appeared to be the only USP purchasers cared about. Beard said suppliers must appreciate the level of maturity of a procurement function because those that are less mature would focus too much on price.

Joining Beard on the panel was Martin Webb, director of consultancy Value Dynamics. Webb and fellow panellists Moray Reid, IBM’s supply chain management and procurement offerings leader in Europe and Stephen Wills LOCOG’s head of procurement for security, said building relationships early could in some cases help shape the request for information (RFI) process. “If businesses want to win business they must understand what is driving customers,” said Reid. “We are focused on stakeholder engagement. Ask us what we want before we are in the tendering process. Suppliers can’t be reactive and wait for a request for information.”

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