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Kelly Barner is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point. She has a unique perspective on procurement from the numerous roles she has held during her 15 years in procurement. Kelly worked for Ahold USA (parent company of grocery chains Stop & Shop, Hannaford, Giant Landover, and more) on their not for resale sourcing team, specia...lizing in systems implementation and hired services category sourcing. She spent three years as the Associate Director of consulting services at Emptoris before it was acquired by IBM in 2011.Since 2009 she has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point. Buyers Meeting Point provides the procurement industry with an events calendar, blog, active social media network, and podcast, all of which are trusted sources of information for practitioners and solution providers alike. Kelly has several regular columns throughout the industry, and in the summer of 2016 was appointed to become the Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business.Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. Kelly has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals: Research, Process, and Resources’ (2014), ‘Procurement at a Crossroads: Career Impacting Insights into a Rapidly Changing Industry’ (2016), and 'Finance Unleashed: Leveraging the CFO for Innovation' (2017). In 2017, Kelly co-founded Palambridge with Phil Ideson (Art of Procurement). More

‘Just One More Thing’ from Our Suppliers

If you watched Peter Faulk play the character Lieutenant Columbo in the thirty years ‘Columbo’ was on television, you undoubtedly saw him break a case by turning back at the last moment and asking, “Just one more thing…”, a question which always ended up breaking the case.

Maybe procurement need to stop and ask another question or two as well. In a recent blog post, ‘What Questions Should Your Clients be Asking’, sales blogger S. Anthony Iannarino talked about the challenges sales people face when they are not able to communicate the value of their solution because the buyers they work with are not asking the right questions. His advice provides some techniques for redirecting the conversation or asking the missing questions so that the necessary information gets across.

While we want to have a complete picture of each solution so that we can accurately compare our options, we’ve all made the mistake of asking questions that are so open ended that sales people talk ad nauseam about something we can't compare across the suppliers in contention. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t pieces of information we are missing out on.

Buyers Meeting Point’s long time advisor The Sales Guy has always advocated asking sales people something about their compensation package or their company's business development priorities so those factors can be brought into a thorough evaluation. What else should we ask?

Here are a few questions that The Sales Guy suggests working into your face-to face supplier meetings. Some are relevant for incumbents and some for new companies you are evaluating, but all of them will allow you to put together a better category management strategy and contract.

  1. “If you are selling to my competitors what products and services are they buying more of and what is the value provided?”  “What are they buying less of?”
  2. “We are spending $XXXK dollars with your company on an annual basis.  If I was to spend that same amount differently what changes would you recommend and why?” 
  3. “What can our companies collaborate on that would help your company bring new products to market and provide competitive advantages for my company?”
  4. “What business model changes is your company introducing and how might they be advantageous to my company?”


If you have a question for The Sales Guy, click here to submit it and we will get you an answer!

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Event Notes: Navigating The New Paradigm in Purchasing

You make money while you are spending money – a quote from Alpar Kamber’s father

This week’s featured event was an interview by Jon Hansen, host of the PI Window on Business Blog Talk Radio program, and Alpar Kamber, a Managing Partner with Denali Group and the Founder and Practice Lead of their Sourcing Services group. The broadcast recording is available on demand on the PI Window on Business site. You can also read more from the Denali Group leadership team in a recent Buyers Meeting Point interview: Planning for Sustainable Results: Long-term Vision, Short-term Action.


If you like what you hear and read, there are additional upcoming opportunities to interact with Alpar and the Denali team in a non-commercial setting. They are hosting two sourcing forums: one later this month in Pittsburgh and one in 2013 in Seattle.

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Book Review: Negotiation Mastery

One idea plus one idea equals three ideas or more. You have a cow, I have a bull, together we have a business. When the output is greater than the sum of the inputs, this is value creation and it is this that has driven the whole progress of the human species.

-- Simon Horton, Negotiation Mastery


Negotiation Mastery by Simon Horton, an experienced negotiation teacher and consultant, is a practical and highly entertaining read whether you are a career negotiator or just wish your skills were a little stronger. In his decade-long career, he has helped hostage negotiators, law firms, financial institutions, and students from the graduate level through the boardroom improve their confidence and outcomes as they enter negotiations.

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Webinar Notes: Maintaining a Talented Supply Management Workforce

This week’s featured webinar was hosted by the Institute for Supply Management and included speakers from CAPS Research, Forrester Research, and two members of the Northrop Grumman supply chain team. Although talent management initiatives have historically been driven by human resources departments, an increasing number of supply management organizations are taking over this critical task as a part of their long term success strategy. The webinar is available on demand on ISM’s website.


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Market Driven Procurement: Bringing the Future into Focus

“What pressures are coming to bear now, or in the foreseeable future, that may impact your supply chain and the ultimate sale of your products or services? Gathering market intelligence should include an understanding of what is happening in the economies of both your consumer’s as well as your supplier’s locations. This market intelligence can be used to both react to conditions and to take advantage of potential cost savings opportunities.”

--‘Understanding Market Pressures’ Managing Indirect Spend, Joe Payne and Bill Dorn

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So, You Want to Win a Reverse Auction?

“Reverse auctions are loved by corporate purchasing managers, loathed by suppliers, and rarely discussed publicly by anyone involved.”

– Max Chafkin, Inc. Magazine

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Webinar Notes: Procurement and Negotiation Strategies for Health Care

This week’s featured webinar was presented by My Purchasing Center in conjunction with Corporate Contracts, Cardinal Health, and event sponsor Puridiom. The entire event (slides and audio) can be viewed on demand here.

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Where Do You Stand on the Use of Rabbits in Strategic Sourcing?

Sometimes the most interesting part of a blog post is the comment thread that follows it. Such was the case with a recent blog post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.

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Webinar Notes: In Search of Spend Optimization

This week’s featured webinar was sponsored by Coupa with main speaker Constantine Limberakis, Senior Market Researcher at Aberdeen Group. The slides from the event are available on Coupa’s website as a download. The event replay is also available here. You can also follow Constantine on Twitter: @ABG_SpendMngmt

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Kelly Barner
For a limited time, you can download a complimentary Aberdeen report on center-led models and spend optimization: http://aberdeen.... Read More
Sunday, 19 August 2012 09:26
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Are you a King or a Joker?

This week’s trip to The Flip Side is based on a post written by Reed Holden on his blog Pricing With Confidence: ‘Procurement: Kings or Jokers’. Holden has written a number of books on pricing and negotiation. His primary focus is helping Fortune 1000 B2B companies in a number of industries maximize their growth through setting optimal go-to-market strategies.

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Webinar Notes: Maximize the Strategic Value of Supplier Networks

This week’s featured webinar was hosted by ISM with contributions from Constantine Limberakis, Senior Analyst in the Global Supply Management practice at Aberdeen Group, and John Lark, Director of Solutions Marketing at Ariba. If you are interested in the subject but didn’t make it to the webinar, you can download a related Aberdeen Group report on ISM’s site. You can also follow Constantine @ABG_SpendMngmt or John @AribaProcure on Twitter.

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Webinar Notes: Advancing the Procurement and Finance Partnership -- An Industry Veteran's Insights

This week’s featured webinar was hosted by Sourcing Interests Group and sponsored by Ariba. The ‘industry veteran’ referred to in the title was Lamar Chesney, former EVP and CPO of SunTrust Bank. His four-decade career in finance and supply chain spanned eight industries and eleven companies including Marsh McLennan, Coca-Cola, and Delta Airlines. He was joined by John Lark, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Ariba.

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Can You Tell a Model T From a Toyota Prius?

This week’s eSourcing Wiki-Wednesday topic is discontinuous innovation, and it is included as one of twenty-one Next Generation Sourcing Strategies that can help revolutionize the role of procurement in the organization. 

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Book Review: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.

– Stephen Covey (1932 – 2012)


On July 16th, the world lost one of its most recognized self-improvement writers and speakers in Stephen Covey. His books, speeches and projects were aimed at improving and empowering individuals and the organizations and networks they belong to. His most well-known publication is ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, written in 1989, which has sold 15 million copies and been translated into 32 languages[1].

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Flip Side Webinar Notes: Leveraging Patterns in Negotiation

This week’s Flip Side coverage comes from last week’s webinar on negotiation hosted by Think! Inc. The primary speaker was Brian Dietmeyer, CEO and President of Think! Inc and author of several books on negotiation including Strategic Negotiation. Although this event was predominantly geared to a sales audience, negotiation is negotiation. If you aren’t sold on the connection to procurement performance, read on to learn more about the ‘moment of truth’: when a sales person is facing their procurement counterpart across the negotiating table. 

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Webinar Notes: Experts Share Supply Chain Sustainability Best Practices

This week’s featured webinar was hosted by Supply & Demand Chain Executive and sponsored by C.H. Robinson, a global leader in third party logistics. The speakers were from Nature’s Path Foods and the Sustainable Food Trade Organization. Twitter #ShipGreen for more information or to join the conversation.

The Sustainable Food Trade Organization shared the structure that Nature’s Path was able to leverage for their sustainable logistics program. Most members of the SFTO see both consumer demand and regulatory pressure as drivers for their sustainability programs. As with other change management efforts, companies find it difficult to get started on being more resource efficient and strategic about their sustainability.


The SFTO also recognizes the common wisdom that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. They had identified the need for appropriate metrics to help guide businesses through the implementation of sustainability programs. It took years to collect the member feedback and research required to put together a list of eleven metrics specific to the organic food industry: organic, energy, climate change, distribution, water use, packaging, waste, animal care, labor, education, governance. These metrics are used for reporting, accountability and continuous improvement, and are available on their website.


Nature’s Path is a member of the SFTO, and they used the sustainability metrics to drive cost reductions and environmental impact reductions through their third party logistics program. Key among the measurable goals of their program was to reduce waste, defined as contributions to landfills and their CO2 footprint including supplies coming into their facilities as well as consumer-ready product going out. 78% of their ingredients are sourced in North America, production takes place in Canada, Washington and Wisconsin, and their product is shipped to 42 countries. They share their annual sustainability report on their website.


Nature’s Path Sustainable Logistics Case Study

With the support of the SFTO measurement framework, Nature’s Path began working with C.H. Robinson on improving the sustainability of their logistics needs. From the beginning this was a collaborative effort between the organizations, and they co-created the program based on shared goals. Nature’s Path wanted to be involved with the direction of the process but not the details of how to make it happen because the logistics piece is not their focus.


They were able to take advantage of a number of opportunities to improve both environmental impact and also cost effectiveness by strategically locating distribution facilities as they expanded and taking advantage of intermodal optimization: blending the use of rail, ship and truck to manage both costs and emissions.


They minimized border crossings between Canada and the US to reduce miles as well as customs fees, and looked to find new eastern ingredient sources so they were sourcing where they sold – both supporting local communities and minimizing transportation costs. Another example of benefitting financially while staying true to their core values was in the handling of damaged packages. Nature’s Path and C.H. Robinson would find a way to donate them to local food banks or shelters: saving the cost of return shipping while also supporting local communities.


With the structure of metrics in place from an early point in the process, data management and therefore reporting were a high value outcome. Reporting was key to helping Nature’s Path understand their progress and successes and also to continue to grow the benefits through their customers and stakeholders. The facts allowed Nature’s Path to demonstrate to their customers how they could further reduce costs and environmental impact with their ordering procedures.



  • CO2 footprint reduced by 20%
  • Customs charges reduced by 60% (less finished goods moved across borders)
  • On time delivery over 90%
  • Reductions in transport costs through modal conversions, consolidation, fewer miles traveled
  • Shortages, damages, returns almost eliminated
  • No increase in size of the Nature’s Path internal logistics department
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Is Your Buying Process Better Suited to PEDANTIC or SOCRATIC Selling?

On July 10th, Value Selling Associates hosted their monthly sales training webinar on Deliberately asking good questions. If you are interested, you can listen to the event on demand (without registration) on their site. VSA President and CEO Julie Thomas opened the event by describing the Socratic method, a problem solving approach that involves asking a series of questions to arrive at an answer.

The connection between the Socrates’ philosophy and the modern sales process is the idea that it is possible to be regarded as wise without having all the answers. In other words, you can ask a lot of questions and still be perceived as knowledgeable.

There are obvious benefits to the approach known as ‘Socratic Selling’. The more questions they ask, the more talking we do, the more information they collect – allowing the supplier to craft a proposal that more closely meets the goals and objectives of the buying organization. On the other hand, not all products and services lend themselves to this method. Transactional, price-driven category decisions don’t require a supplier to impress us with their deep thoughts – just to have the information we need to compare options and make an informed choice.

Tim J. Smith, Ph.D., and Chief Editor of the Wigleaf Journal (dedicated to Sales, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship), wrote a piece on this topic called ‘Pedantic or Socratic?’ where he compares two approaches to demonstrating wisdom in sales: one where the sales person effectively ‘tells’ the buyer what they need, and one where the sales person leads the buyer to a desired conclusion with a carefully crafted set of questions. Both can be effective in the right circumstances. 

Pedantic Selling

Pedantic selling approaches are easy to recognize: presentations full of details about features and functionality that clearly communicate availability, pricing and benefits.

This approach works perfectly well with traditionally purchased indirect categories like office supplies or janitorial services. There are no deep dynamics to uncover, just an office full of professionals that want to have pens on hand and clean workspaces.

Socratic Selling

Socratic selling, also called consultative selling, are focused on uncovering information about the buyers motivations and needs, both to inform the sales team and to help the buyer better understand their own position.

When a category is associated with a change in strategy or will enable operational change, deeper probing is in order for both sales and procurement.

Knowing the Difference

Many sales organizations are trying to move to more Socratic or consultative models, because they believe that such an approach will result in increased trust, longer contracts and larger deals. Regardless of the prospective size of your purchase, you are likely to encounter some open-ended questions early in the sales/buying process as the supplier rep works to ‘qualify’ the deal: to figure out if and when it may happen, and how large the opportunity is.

As you get further through the process, however, a Socratic sales approach can actually be a red flag. Is the sales person trying to build a foundation on which they can either up sell you or secure a longer contract? If the questions being asked seem to repeatedly lead you from the product or service you are focused on to a complimentary offering, beware of how it affects your buying intentions. Determine up front whether your category is likely to be relationship-based and don’t let anything short of a full internal team meeting change your course.

But if your purchase is strategic in nature, and if it will require the long-term cooperation of the solution partner you select, learn to appreciate and benefit from a Socratic sales person. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about what your organization really needs and what will ultimately motivate an award decision and a solution choice. Just remember that you don’t have to answer all of the questions out loud to benefit from them being asked…

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Webinar Notes: Purchasing Power: The Strategic Role of Procurement in Today’s Economy

This week’s featured webinar notes are from a My Purchasing Center sponsored event that looked at the evolving role of procurement in today’s organizations. Speakers Barbara Kline (BreakThru Center) and Michael Walters (Transformance Inc) shared their knowledge and experience, predominantly through a case study on the purchasing organization from Honda’s North American operation.

The webinar was recorded and will be available on demand from the My Purchasing Center website.

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Crowdsourcing the Netflix Way

Today’s eSourcing Wiki-Wednesday topic is on the value of crowdsourcing as a next generation sourcing strategy. The core idea is that if you can harness the collective knowledge of a large group of people to solve problems – often at a lower cost than would be required to fund a project with direct staff or contingent workforce approaches.


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Kelly Barner
You can also read another procurement perspective on crowdsourcing in this recent post on the Strategic Sourceror: 'The Strength o... Read More
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 12:46
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Webinar Notes: How to Eat An Elephant: Supply and Risk Management at ABB

This week’s featured webinar was hosted by Emptoris and Procurement Leaders, with a supplier lifecycle management (SLM) case study from The ABB Group. You can view an on demand version of the event by clicking here. ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. In 2010 they had $32B in revenue. As a 120 year old organization, they were decentralized with five divisions.


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