The parting of the procurement ways

IMG_0032There is, slowly but surely, a growing awareness in the B2B marketplace that, (thanks to the web-driven commoditisation of pretty much everything), it’s not your product, your service or your price that makes the difference, it’s your relationship.

It’s getting to be all about the people.
Paradoxically however the organisations intended to deliver value to the people, paid for by the people, staffed by an enormous number of the people, our central and local government services, our public sector bodies all persist in the practice of building or buying teams of expensive resource to produce pointless questionnaires, RFP’s and ITT’s to verify  that the likes of IBM, BT, Oracle and Thales are not fly-by-night cowboys operating out of a railway arch in Clapham.
Why does the public sector persist in mandating a procurement culture which inevitably delivers the apparently cheapest but actually, invariably, over time, priciest solution with, thanks to penny-pinching procurement the highest likelihood of catastrophic and expensive failure?
Why do all the suppliers have to invest in expensive teams of expensive people jumping collectively through an ever-changing series of procedural hoops which just endorse what (if they are any good at all) the buyers must already know?
Why does the public sector spend a fortune (our taxes by the way) excluding the human element from all procurement when the commercial world is recognising, rewarding, investing and coaching on things like trust, integrity, longevity and respect?
I’d like to think that those who ‘serve the public good’ recognise the value of those things too.
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Intuition in selling, the critical clues we miss when we focus, focus, focus …

 

Once upon a time I wadv560003s engaged in a series of selling conversations with a small consultancy, which punched way above its weight, but history has since shown it was poised for phenomenal growth.

As is often the case I suddenly found myself in front of their latest high level recruit, a chap they’d headhunted from IBM, a man who was positioned to me as a “serious big hitter”‘ grown up, very experienced, a “premier league head-honcho type”.
I met with the chap, we spoke, we explored a number of areas of concern to both businesses, we agreed on a possible plan to do stuff together. I was impressed but, something niggled. Couldn’t work out what.

We sketched out a plan, using pencils and a Filofax( ha, that  dates it). He used a business card as a straight edge, made a joke about IBM delivering 200 to him the day before he resigned. Sure enough the card identified him as a “premier league head honcho”, or words to that effect. We worked on the plan, we agreed some actions, we arranged another meeting.

Something niggled.

The next meeting he was more relaxed, fitting into his new role, confident, pushy, some might say aggressive. Affable but not entirely reasonable. He told the business card anecdote again. The penny dropped. The niggle explained, he was nowhere near confident. Consciously or subconsciously he’d manufactured an anecdote to show how important he used to be, he was out of his comfort zone and desperate to impress, his new employers, me, anybody.

That realisation changed my view of him, and his attitude, it gave me context, it informed my sales approach of identifying the personal wins for each player in any sales conversation. Didn’t remind him that his history was simply that, history, that he was now in a young thrusting business where only what you achieve today carries weight. Instead we, together, found a way to cement his place, a series of small victories that reassured him and the consultancy that he was not in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing.

Two lessons, oh alright, three

1.When something niggles, pay attention, respect your intuition, work out why.

2. A complex b2b sale is always a series of conversations, the 2nd one delivered the clue to what was happening, the third and fourth made it work

3. Everything matters, be aware, think about what your clients do, not just what they say, or don’t say, because sometimes, they aren’t aware, but the clues are there.