This article leads on from my last post – The Best Way to Buy and Sell Consultancy Services – in which I discussed the need for buyers and sellers to rethink the role and practice of procurement.

My advice was that procurement professionals need to think more like strategic business people, and less like guardians of the spend process. Their focus needs to shift to problem solving and value. Failure to do so results in unworkable engagements that serve no one’s interest.

However that’s just the start. Buyers and sellers also need the soft-skills necessary to understand the context in which services are being procured, both at a project and organisational level.

Political Animals

In many organisations, particularly large corporations, the centre of gravity moves often and quickly.  When it comes to engaging consulting services, the executives who are able to dictate external spend decisions today may not be able to do so tomorrow. Suppliers can be caught out too, particularly if by association this may impact their potential for future work.

Your political radar needs to be on at all times and procurement professionals can gain a lot of respect in the supply market by proactively keeping suppliers in the loop when the organisational environment starts to change. The quid pro-quo is hugely valuable – service providers will be more inclined to inform procurement when they have been approached directly about a potential piece of work. In this category the more forewarned both parties are, the more value they can deliver.

Read the Situation

The intuition required to judge the political landscape is also required to gain a sense of the urgency of a situation.

Yes there should be spend guidelines. Yes qualified suppliers should be considered first if that is part of your overall approach. Yes wherever possible standard terms of engagement should be used. BUT procurement professionals must possess a large quantity of pragmatism in this category and be savvy enough to recognise how to press the ‘overlay button’ if it is necessary to support a particular business need.

Soft Sell

In reality, procurement has its default personality-types as much as any other profession, and what I’m asking for here will be outside the comfort zone of many. It requires a change in perception and attitude; the softer skills of influence and intuition that count for so much yet are valued so little.

At 100% Effective we’re doing a lot to educate the profession, and suppliers to boot, in the culture and methodologies that facilitate mutually beneficial relationships. For example I spoke at the eWorld Purchasing & Supply forum last week, discussing similar ideas to those summarised here.

The response was excellent – from both purchasers and suppliers. There is a general sense that more can be done in this space to build in efficiency and transparency, and I’m optimistic about the prospects for change.

Next time I’ll be discussing how buyers and suppliers can work together to shape the scope of work, as well as how making the case for why procurement’s role shouldn’t end when the deal is signed.