Selling the Value of Procurement to the Business

Over the years on Spend Matters, I've written at least a few times about the need to more effectively market the value of Spend Management to the business. But getting the right type of attention from finance, operations, and P&L owners is not simply as easy as parading in a ROI model to justify incremental headcount or the latest and greatest technology.

No, marketing is both an art and a science, and while financial models can be invaluable, they're only part of winning the hearts and minds of other business stakeholders. Just as the most successful technology vendors have succeeded in positioning their solutions by selling "the afterlife" to justify their historically fat margins -- relative to other businesses -- sourcing and procurement leaders must learn to sell not only returns, but how great things will become if only their advice is heeded. Selling the afterlife and winning over supporters requires both an overall vision as well as tactical execution. In the rest of this post, I will stick to the tactics (I'll discuss what it takes to create and relay a vision in a future post).

In my view, procurement teams must think of themselves as ambassadors, conducting positioning and marketing campaigns accordingly. What are elements of successful marketing programs that I've seen work? For one, internal newsletters aimed at highlighting overall results as well as individual contributions -- not to mentioning educating an extended group on processes and technology -- are a great start. In addition, creating award systems where senior business executives recognize the value of individual or team accomplishments can also help.

What are some other tactics and approaches to take? Earlier in the month, the National Association of Purchasing and Payables Conference featured a number of speakers who tackled this subject. According to a write-up in Purchasing, Jon Stephens, Senior Director of Marketing Procurement -- yes, that's the correct title -- at Microsoft, noted that "You have to sell the discipline and yourself .... The businesses have to believe in you. To earn that trust, you need to be familiar with the subculture of the business and you need to understand what the business values." Amex's Susan Feiner, another speaker at the event, noted that "To sustain our success, we need to treat the businesses as customers" by creating a formalized approach to track customer satisfaction.

Obviously these suggestions are just a start. I look forward to continuing to tackle this subject on Spend Matters, sharing additional details on both tactical and visionary elements of marketing procurement to the business. Next week, I'll tackle in more detail what it means to sell the Spend Management afterlife.

Jason Busch

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