Quick Wins for the New Procurement Leader – Talk To Your Suppliers

We recently published a briefing paper titled Quick Wins for the New Procurement Leader – sponsored by the good people at BravoSolution. It is based on the Real World Sourcing session Peter Smith led in early December. The event was well received so we thought it was worth turning the material into a paper everyone could enjoy.

In the paper, we look at five areas that can bring rapid benefits for a procurement executive moving into a new job. That applies not just at CPO level but in any position of some authority, including a category manager with no direct reports. This does not mean these are the only five areas of potential interest, or necessarily the ones where the greatest prize can be found – every organisation will be different of course.

But we hope this might provoke some though at least, and you can download the paper here from the BravoSolution website, free on registration. Here is today’s extract, looking at something that sounds very obvious: talking to suppliers. Yet we have often been surprised by how few procurement leaders and managers devote any significant time to this activity. Give it a try – and it is easier if you are in a new role, so strike while the iron is hot!

Quick Wins for the New Procurement Leader (extract)

Some of our other points may sound somewhat tactical and driven by the need to show rapid savings and cost reduction. As quick wins, such activities do have a clear motivation; they can be the easiest and most obvious way for the new CPO or executive to show they are delivering value. But of course there will be other value opportunities, they are not necessarily just about cost reduction. To get at these quickly, the best route is often to talk to key suppliers.

Other of our quick wins also involve contact with suppliers, but what we are really talking about doing here is picking their brains for their ideas …

So, as a new person, you can ask suppliers innocent, even seemingly stupid questions, and no-one is too surprised. Why do you do it like that? Are we one of your preferred customers? (Watch out for that moment’s hesitation before they say “of course”!)

Putting a direct question to your key suppliers - “What would you do if you had just started in this job” - is an excellent way to get into a meaningful discussion. They might come up with a self-serving example, but in our experience they tend to respond reasonably openly to a direct enquiry of that nature. A long-standing supplier is also in many cases a great source of information about the hidden politics, culture and ways of working of your organisation. They can also be perceptive about the opportunities for you to make efficiency gains within your own organisation. Suppliers often see bureaucratic and non-value-adding processes in their customers' businesses very clearly.

 (Download the paper here from the BravoSolution website, free on registration.)


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