John Niland and the Opportunity Conversation – free e-book!

At the Expense Reduction Analysts conference a few weeks ago, I met John Niland, who was the keynote speaker. Unfortunately I missed his session, but he heard mine, and we’re had a couple of discussions since - he’s got some interesting perspectives ion business.

He has written a couple of books, speaks and advises on general business performance and particularly sales processes, but his views are very different to the usual “hard selling” type message that we often see in that area. He talks about “opportunity conversations” – discussions that identify areas of mutual opportunity between buyers and sellers. Incidentally, that includes selling yourself – we’ll come onto his thoughts on job-hunting later.

This struck a chord with me because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the fundamental question of how procurement delivers value to organisations. And what we sometimes forget is that the value we deliver as procurement can only come from the suppliers – the people we engage with, select, contract with and manage.

That is why Niland’s concept of the opportunity conversation resonated. Any discussion with a prospective supplier is in a sense about identifying the opportunity – for both parties to benefit from the contract and the relationship. No opportunity, no business really.

So I said “yes” when he asked me to write a piece for a new e-book he’s just made available, called (unsurprisingly)  "Opportunity Conversations". I’ve contributed a short chapter looking at how sales people can try and get that opportunity conversation with procurement staff. Not easy to even get through the door to talk to procurement, as we all know.

But the point I make is that we should be open to the right sort of conversation. If we’re not, then we are passing up the potential chance to bring value into the organisation. Now that doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” to every photo-copier salesman who calls asking for an hour of your time, but it does require a certain openness to identify the real potential opportunities.

The e-book – or the main part of it written by Niland – focuses on two types of opportunity conversation. One is related to finding a job or new job – so even if you’re not interested in his ideas from the sales perspective, it is worth reading that section from a personal perspective if you are or might be in the job market anytime soon! It contains some good advice and thought-provoking ideas.

Anyway, you can download the e-book here, you don’t even have to register at the moment, and we’ll feature an excerpt as well sometime soon.

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