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‘Sell me this procure-to-pay solution’

03/31/2021 By


The other night, my teenager, fresh off watching “The Wolf of Wall Street,” tossed me a writing instrument. He said, quoting a line from the movie, “sell me this pen.”

But being a gin and tonic into the evening, my movie quote knowledge database was not fully engaged when he issued the challenge. So when I launched into a “former English major + management consultant BS dad soliloquy” about how keystrokes could never communicate a proven fourth emotion like a pen stroke and that it is proven that kids who still learn cursive with pens have 7.23 higher IQ points, he was not buying it.

“Dad, you’re telling me wants, not needs. People buy based on needs. Like, you need to write and sign a check, dad. Right now. What are you going to do without the pen that you need right now”?”

He had a point. I was selling him wants. There was not a compelling immediate need, at least not in my argument.

And then an analogy hit me.

Selling: Wants vs Needs

So often in the selection of procurement technology solutions, one of the fundamental challenges in the case of technology shortlisting and decisions is that people confuse wants with needs. I believe this stems from the fact that few organizations are truly on the same page in the first place as to what their specific business requirements are. In the best case, they accept a vendor led value engineering sales methodology that will identify specific ROI factors, KPIs, etc. that the solution will impact — and that ideally will be measured post implementation.

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That’s the best case. But even these questions (and metrics) represent a clever psychological sales and justification approach — and either designed to align with what a third-party believes is right and cleverly fits with where its solutions are strongest. Granted, the metrics a solution can influence may end up being organizational needs which exist from the start. But they could also be wants which end up becoming needs for a finite period of time during the selection process and maybe after — because they may or may not be aligned with an organization’s true, innate needs.

In short: such an approach may be leading the witness, and if it is, in part or full, the fundamental challenge is that what feels like a need could very well be transient and end up not mattering as much as a fundamental, organizational articulated requirement. In other words, a need.

This is why procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should figure out, on their own, as early in a selection process as possible, what their true needs are.

So, don’t have someone sell you that procure-to-pay solution (or any procurement technology solution) in a manner that may confuse potential wants with needs. Define up front what your specific business needs, outcomes and requirements really are, align those with the supply market in advance of a selection process, and then take the time during the sourcing process to really understand all of the other factors — both “soft” and “hard” — which matter to you. In addition to those things you truly need.

In short, own the technology shortlisting and selection process at the start to avoid the potential of having a third-party’s want seem like a need. Until it isn’t.

If you’re in the market to buy a type of procurement technology based on needs versus wants, try out Spend Matters TechMatch℠. It’s our new RFI tool that enables you to clarify between the two, generate and benchmark a vendor shortlist, allowing you to make the best buying decision based on your business and technical priorities.