As a Purchasing Professional Do You Need to Acquire Sales Skills?
Procurement and sales are two vital business functions with varied processes that are often described as opposites. Some companies may find these two departments at odds with each other as they argue which one is more important for the vitality of the organization.
Author: Susan Avery, Former Editor of MyPurchasingCenter
Editor’s note: This article is part of the MyPurchasingCenter content archive. It was originally published in 2015 and appears here without revision
This is fueled by the fact that most organizations pay more attention to sales by allocating substantial budget for this function while purchasing struggles to obtain funding for the implementation of new tools, addition of headcount, or attending training seminars for improving employee skills.
In recent years, however, more and more organizations are realizing that the best outcome for business can be achieved by looking at how both procurement and sales equally improve the profitability of their firms. Increasingly, “C” level executives are not only turning to purchasing for reducing the cost of goods and services, more important, they are expecting contribution to the bottom line and how purchasing can become a competitive differentiator. As a result, purchasing professionals are pursuing supply management college degrees, obtaining certifications, and sharpening their purchasing skills.
As you are striving to apply the newly acquired purchasing skills into your daily work and gain the respect that you deserve, pay special attention to your sales skills. Here are some sales techniques that will help to achieve results and advance your career:
Making Your Customer the Hero. Every story has a hero. Who is the hero of your story? If you need approval for implementing a new process/tool/technology, or rolling out a new policy, clearly spell out the benefits (show me the money) in order to get the buy-in of management. With each win give credit and make your management/supporter the hero. This will pave the way for future projects and successes.
What’s In It For Me (WIIFM). If you need for internal stakeholders to follow the established purchasing processes, buy off of the negotiated contracts, work with your suppliers, and adhere to purchasing policies, you have to be persuasive and answer the question “what’s in it for them?” The fact that it's "good for the company" isn't very convincing and motivational. The benefit to them may be the ability to buy more goods or services with the same budget, increased efficiency, or something else. You need to make it clear how their department benefits by doing the things that you want them to do.
A Promise is a Promise. If you promise to do something for your stakeholders, perhaps placing an order, contacting a supplier for a quality defect or a late shipment, make sure to follow through. If there is a deadline, make sure it reaches your internal customer on time. If you are forced to extend the deadline, circle back and let them know. You will be respected and over time trusted by your internal customers.
Differentiate Yourself. Sales folks are very good at highlighting or bragging about their company’s capabilities and offerings in order to entice you to buy from them. As a hard-working procurement professional with aspiration for advancing your career, not only do you need to produce results, you need to differentiate yourself and make sure you are noticed by your superiors. The way you come to work, how you deal with other employees, your attitude, your participation in meetings, willingness to learn new skills, and embracing change, are some examples that will set you apart from others. You never know who is watching you in action!
Successful procurement professionals are not born; they acquire new skills by continuously reading, learning, practicing, and never giving up. To have a fulfilling career in procurement, in addition to improving your purchasing skills, do you need to acquire sales skills? You bet you do!