As part of Buyers Meeting Point's ‘Flip Side’ resource, we often read sales blogs and attend sales webinars to take the trends we see and apply them for the benefit of supply management and procurement professionals. A recent post by S. Anthony Iannarino, author of ‘The Sales Blog’ covered the foundational and secondary skill sets possessed by most successful sales people, then went on to describe the additional competencies that will be required for ‘The New Consultative Salesperson’.
Like the full blog post, it is important for procurement to possess primary and secondary skill sets: spend analysis, negotiation, project management, written and spoken communication, critical thinking, and more. The consultative dimension to a professional's capabilities is about applying their foundational skills in a dynamic, forward-looking way.
There are a number of angles we can look at the information from: to learn more about what to look for in a potential strategic partner, but also to become more consultative ourselves, with our suppliers, our stakeholders, and the executives we work to win over.
Here is the excerpt:
The New Consultative Salesperson
...the new consultative salesperson requires additional competencies.
The primary competency for salespeople now is business acumen. None of the foundational skills or second level skills is valuable without business acumen. Of all of the skills and competencies required, business acumen reigns supreme. Business acumen is the new sales acumen. Without business acumen, it is difficult to know how to help your clients produce better business outcomes. That’s the new game. It’s not product. It’s not features and benefits. It’s not solutions. It’s business outcomes.
Getting those business outcomes requires change. The consultative salesperson has to possess the ability to mange and lead change in their client’s organization, and in their own. The new consultative salesperson manages change.
Managing this change requires leadership skills. A salesperson may do a lot of the heavy lifting by themselves or with their small sales team, but the execution belongs to a team of people on in the salesperson’s company and in the client’s. The new consultative salesperson is a strategic orchestrator; they lead the change by leading the team.
Like no time before, when you sell it, you own it. You sell outcomes, and that means that you own those outcomes. Managing the outcomes is what new consultative salespeople do. They don’t own the transactions; their team does. But they own the outcomes, and they ensure that their clients get the benefit of their bargain by acting as part of their client’s team.
As mentioned earlier, I believe there are three ways we can look at this information:
1. As a guide to evaluate our current suppliers and sales reps
An increasing number of categories require strategic input from the suppliers we do business with. If you recognize more than a couple of the traits described above in an account rep, you may be looking at an opportunity to generate value for your organization by sharing more, learning more, and getting more from the contract in return. A good sales person will be satisfied with keeping a high quality dialogue going, trusting that when you are ready to renew or purchase more, they will be able to cash in on the trust and shared experience you have built up. Assuming you have a Non-disclosure agreement in place with your suppliers, not bringing forward the challenges you’re experiencing is missing out on an opportunity to get help from an objective (outside) source.
2. To become more consultative to our stakeholders
If procurement is to be considered a true resource to the organization, we need to learn to serve as a consultative function internally. Procurement wants suppliers to focus on outcomes rather than the next sale. In the same spirit, when we meet with internal stakeholders we need to focus on outcomes rather than savings. Building a feeling of trust will open doors – spend visibility, invitations to meetings, and access to decision makers (ironically, three of the same things our suppliers want from us). Even better, if our stakeholders feel that we have listened and understand their challenges, they may also be willing to listen to new ideas we come up with, and that will be the opportunity that leads to savings and/or value creation.
3. To become more consultative to executive leadership
Procurement has always carried the burden of ‘selling’ the benefit of our existence to the C-level, and even though 70% of organizations now have a single executive leader for the procurement function (TradingPartners Webinar 2/9) sitting at the table does not mean automatic acceptance of the message he/she delivers. The section above about leadership skills speaks directly to this application of consultative skills. As organizations face new challenges, new answers are needed and procurement has the opportunity to supply them.
Developing consultative skills (business acumen, change management, leadership, and ownership of outcomes) will serve procurement well as we face our internal and external contact points. More importantly, they will allow us to become stronger individual and group contributors – furthering our careers and the advancement of procurement as a function.