Breaking down the barriers between the end-customer and the business support functions is so pivotal for success in today’s world of the OneOfficeTM. And one place to start is by identifying the potential intersections where there is a shared outcome. We’ve seen how this approach can work for sales and procurement, leading to increased sales and compliance.
In my colleague Derk Erbe’s post, Why We Should Love Procurement, he encourages the much-maligned procurement organization to “be a business facilitator” and the business to be a partner with procurement to contract, buy, and use services from third parties in the most beneficial way for the business.
Just recently, I heard three good reasons to “love procurement.”
This story of collaboration between procurement and sales led to (1) increase in closed deals for sales, (2) increase in compliance, and (3) increase in mutual respect. It also, by the way, caught my attention as an example of using Design Thinking for an internal function, taking a stakeholder-centered (empathetic) approach to defining and solving a problem.
Thinking “outside the box” on how the skills of a sourcing professional are relevant to the business more broadly
In this example, the global sourcing office that provides support for contract management at Equifax, among other sourcing activities, had little interaction with the sales team, whose activities had some “loose ends.” At times, contracts were signed, for example, with non-compliant terms and conditions, some of which the company was not set up to deliver effectively in a timely fashion… if, in fact, the execution team could access the signed contract, which may just be sitting on the sales team member’s hard drive. The right people were not getting involved at the right time with the sales team to help shape, close, and deliver the business. Some of these “right people,” the Equifax leadership team realized, are in the sourcing organization, and are not just compliance experts, but also have a negotiating capability that could be better applied to its business more broadly.
Here’s where Tim Brown, SVP, Equifax Global Sourcing Office, and his team took a Design Thinking approach to defining and solving the problem. Giving some thought to what matters to the sales team – closing deals and booking sales, he tapped into relevant expertise on the sourcing team—people who buy products and services. The sourcing team for the company is a set of professional buyers, and the sales team is a group of sellers. What if, under a mandate of change, instead of providing a checklist of terms and conditions and hounding sales teams which sourcing groups are often (justly or unjustly) better known for, he offered the sales professionals something that addresses directly what they care about: closing deals.
Role playing may be awkward at first, but it can turn into coaching and valuable interactions that drive business results
The sourcing team offered to role play – “let us be the buyer as we have sourcing buy experience and can help you practice and also test/understand the buyer point of view.” As the dialogue played out, there were times when the sales team realized that the procurement professionals were sometimes a step or three ahead of them in the negotiations… and the sessions turned into real strategy and coaching interactions.
In some cases, the sales team started bringing the procurement team proactively into deals and coordinating support through them. They became a team with a shared goal – grow the business, and in a compliant way. Because the procurement team is now a part of the sales process, there is more interaction, and therefore, more likelihood of adopting the common terms and conditions, faster escalation and resolution of issues, better contract management… In addition, the sales team is closing deals more expediently.
Bottom line: The sourcing team took an empathetic approach to understanding what would be relevant and valuable to the sales team, creating a valuable intersection, which also led to addressing challenges around contract management and compliance.
The teams, as a result, work more collaboratively and close business more effectively and efficiently. Procurement and sales, therefore, are partners in growing the business, from the back through the front office, most likely creating a better experience for their customers as well.
Posted in : Design Thinking