Procurement is an easier job than sales. Discuss.

There’s a good controversial statement to get people talking.  But I do believe it.  That’s not to say that being a really good procurement person is easy; in fact, achieving such status is just as challenging as becoming a top sales person.

The difference is at the other end of the scale.  It is quite possible to survive for an entire career in procurement without actually being very good (OK, hands up who muttered "you're living proof of that"!)

How can that be so?

Because it is difficult to get found out. Very few suppliers are going to complain or expose a bad buyer, particularly if it means they extract more value from the relationship.  Suppliers who do complain can be dismissed as ‘whingers’ who are sore about losing a tender or similar.  Upsetting internal users is one way incompetence can be exposed; but equally, some procurement people are poor at their jobs precisely because they don’t challenge users enough.

So, as a CPO, as I know from hard experience, it is very difficult to truly know who are your stars, who is competent, and who really should be trying a different career.  Now competence assessment is one way you can address this; looking at the skills needed for a role and then testing how people stack up against this.   It can work well.  I’ve used it, and my friend Kim Godwin is very skilled in this area and gets good results for clients. is still somewhat artificial.  And I’ve known some people who would not come across well on most ‘tests’ yet get surprisingly good results in terms of the value they bring to their category or contracts.

So.... all this lays out a challenge to procurement.  But next week I’m going to feature a solution provider claiming that they might just have the answer to this; an objective measure of performance for procurement functions and, perhaps even for individuals.  After my first discussion with them, I’m certainly intrigued - stay tuned for more.

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