ProcureCon: Are Your Buying Decisions Motivated by Emotion or Business Politics?

One of the most exciting aspects of attending ProcureCon conferences for me is the opportunity to hear first-hand what practitioners are thinking, and last week's conference in Atlanta did not disappoint. In addition to one on one networking with those who spend every day on the front lines, the afternoon round table discussions provided a perfect forum to hear and learn more -- beyond provider solution sets -- about what's going on at the buyers table.

While all the round table topics were prescient, I found Randy Clark's (Sr. Strategic Buyer for Volvo's truck division) Gaining The Edge in Negotiations & Creating Leverage for Sourcing Teams especially enlightening. Randy opened the roundtable with industry praise for the fact that the GM legacy model of supplier abuse has finally been vanquished with nods all around. He then stated that when we spend our own money it's emotional -- when we spend company dollars it's political, agree or disagree? The practitioner responses were fascinating.

By a show of hands, the majority of the twenty or so participants admitted to not having a personal budget -- who wants to think about budgeting at home when it's what one hears all day in the office? But not working off of a budget at home seemed to have little impact on the emotional responses to Randy's question. When it comes to negotiating a supplier contract, these roundtable participants clearly wanted to "win." Coming from a personal win/win mindset, it was fascinating to hear that most of the participants were passionately competitive in their negotiation strategies.

Randy expertly elicited lively debate and commentary with questions like: Is every meeting with a supplier a negotiation? Are suppliers our friends? Who owns the relationship? Do you use scripts? There were equal portions of agreement and disagreement though there was consensus around wanting every supplier to make a fair profit margin as a pre-requisite to maintaining a mutually beneficial and transparent engagement.

Great job Randy, and if you weren't building trucks for Volvo -- you would have made a terrific schoolteacher.

- William Busch

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