Selling the Procurement Function – benefits not features

The students on the Birmingham University MBA in Strategic Procurement have the dubious pleasure of several hours of my input for the last few years, and last Sunday was the annual event. We talk about a number of topics, one being “marketing the procurement function”. And within that, there was one element that was interesting in terms of the response it got.

That’s where I talk about a very fundamental principle of sales – that you sell the benefits, not the features.  So for instance, my old company Mars doesn’t major on the ingredients of the product – it is “a Mars a day helps you work rest and play”.  Or you don’t simply say to a prospective car buyer, “this car has an automatic gearbox”, you say, “this makes City driving so much easier for you because it’s an automatic”. Highlight the benefits not the features.

It sounds fairly straightforward yet the students seemed to find it surprisingly novel. In the context of promoting what we do in procurement, we often make the mistake of communicating the features rather than the benefits. For instance, if we launch a new framework or approved supplier list for management consultancy services, we might tell our users that we've appointed 10 suppliers, at reduced rates, with agreed terms and conditions. All good stuff, but features.

The benefits to the users however are subtly different. They might be:

  • The lower prices will help your budget go further - get more consultancy for your money!
  • The pre-selected suppliers and agreed contracts  - based on extensive research - mean you don't waste time trying to identify good firms and sort out Ts and Cs
  • The Ts and Cs give us the right protection in areas like IP so you don't have to worry about anything unpleasant rebounding on you during or after the assignment

That sort of approach should intrinsically appeal more to the user. So remember the Mars Bar, and remember, sell the benefits, not features.

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