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The Latest (disturbing) Findings From The World of Sales

October 13, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Procurement, Sales Pioneer

For the third year running I recently had the privilege and pleasure of attending, presenting and acting as MC at the CSE11, Asia Pacific’s Premier Sales Leadership Conference – “The New Era of Professional Selling; The Pathway from Supplier to Partner Status”.

Over 150 delegates from Australia’s premium companies attended and we heard from some of the world’s leading experts on sales capability, strategy and culture. There was much talk about the rapidly changing face of our B2B (business to business) sales world and how we need to build relevant and sustainable partnerships if we are to flourish. One of the highlights was hearing from one of Australia’s top Procurement Leaders, Craig Rooney who is the Group Procurement Manager for Porter Davis Homes and former Coles Group Procurement Manager. Craig’s insights were well received and gave us all a clear picture of how to build a Pathway from Supplier to Partner Status with 21st Century Procurement Professionals. Like Selling, Craig pointed out that the profession of Procurement is undergoing dramatic evolution to adapt to the volatility of today’s business world.

Measuring Brain Waves

Measuring Brain Waves

The importance of Coaching to achieve real sales capability, results, and cultural transformation was a strong message as was the need to genuinely merge and unite sales and marketing, with the rise and rise of social media as a critical piece in the sales machine. And the emergence of Neuroscience to our effective and sustained performance in sales was a highlight at this conference with live experiments on show.

Another key and somewhat disturbing message was Adapt or Perish. The world of B2B selling is changing so rapidly that it is now polarising into two distinct areas, with the likelihood of a particular style of B2B sales person becoming extinct in the next few years.

There’s no longer a middle ground in B2B sales. What you now have is a polarisation of sales approaches:

1. B2B Transactional Selling
2. B2B Complex Selling

B2B Transactional Selling is commodity based selling where there is no product differentiation and price or cost is the only priority. The Pathway from Supplier to Partner Status is not relevant here and this is where we are likely to see the extinction or death of the transactional salesman as the costs to run (such as field sales force with diminishing returns) will see businesses re-thinking their go-to-market strategy. Those B2B field sales teams that persist in selling product will be treated as commodity sales people who add no real value. Customers will therefore not waste their time seeing or dealing with them. Eventually, we’ll see the sale of commodity based products move to internal phone sales teams and/or direct to online sales portals. In many instances this is already happening.

Complex Sale

Complex Sale

This leaves B2B field sales people in the world of complex selling requiring a whole different level of skills, knowledge and mindset. I have written previously in Know Your Business about the importance of business acumen in sales and becoming a business person who can sell which is even more of a priority now. I have also written previously about The Sales Pioneer the emerging breed of sales professional whose key characteristics rest in the ability to challenge and educate the client, bring insight and wisdom in their areas of expertise to the table and work in collaboration with clients to produce real results. The genuine Sales Pioneers are the ones who will flourish and prosper along with their clients in the 21st century yet these people are not all that easy to find or develop.

This brings me to consider ‘how do we professionalise selling?’ and create a pathway to becoming the Sales Pioneer Professional. The thinking and capabilities required to succeed in today’s complex sales environment are in the realms of the standards of MBA’s and other business qualifications. We all noted at the conference that medical doctors, engineers, pilots and other skilled professionals invest 6-8 years of their own money and effort into attaining their qualifications. It’s about time Selling stepped out from under the shadows of Marketing and MBA’s to be a qualification in its own right and earn a place at the tertiary and professional table.

In conclusion the CSE11 conference signified that many sales leaders, salespeople and procurement professionals are on the same page about where our industry and the markets are heading – insight and collaboration is key to navigating our way in these volatile times. Managing our own wellbeing and resilience by cultivating our neurochemical pathways and rewiring how we think and act. While we have a way to go you cannot deny that it’s exciting moving forward to use the changing market to develop our minds, skills and expertise and apply ourselves and our work to benefit our businesses, our clients and customers and the sales profession.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

Procurement & Value Managed

September 15, 2011 in Customer Service, Procurement, Sales Culture, Value Proposition & Value Add

‘Procurement & Value Managed’ was voted as the Number 8 for Sales Trends for 2011. In 2011 we are seeing the development, thinking and sophistication of the Procurement Profession accelerate. This progression will surely see procurement on the front foot of supply chain management. Around 60 percent of major global corporations now have Procurement and Supply at the executive table alongside sales, marketing, finance, production, HR, IT, etc. Security of supply, environmental credentials, sustainable business practices, integrative processes and business cases will be up for discussion at the executive level and procurement are right in the centre of key decisions making. Smart procurement professionals will centre much of their thinking and advice around Value Management rather than Cost Management.

Contrary to popular myth that all procurement people want to negotiate the lowest price, the procurement profession is presenting itself as far more sophisticated than most sales people give it credit for.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend and present at the CIPSA CPO100 conference where the top 100 Australian companies were represented by their Chief Procurement Officers. The insights and findings were fascinating – a significant feature being the growing importance of having viable relationships with internal stakeholders, sales people, suppliers and customers. The procurement profession recognises that in the past, its members haven’t done the best job in building and managing viable business relationships within their own organisations or with suppliers, admitting that the end-user customer could even be forgotten.

But things are quickly changing – smart procurement professionals now recognise they need to look at the whole supply chain process. They need to have a firm grasp of the organisation’s strategy, culture and capability as well as an understanding of the intricacies of the changing needs of their customer base and their buying behaviours.

In this volatile world, it is well recognised that customers no longer buy vertically and now buy horizontally, subsequently creating havoc in traditional supply chains. For instance ‘Zara’* one of the latest fashion brands to hit our shores has a three week turnaround on new range promotions. This means that new product materials need to be sourced, made and shipped to store within 15 days. This means 16 new ranges per year. This has turned supplier relationships, procurement practices and the retail fashion business on their heads.

How does procurement respond in this instance? According to Supply Chain Management expert Dr John Gattorna they make sure they fully understand the business, its strategic priorities, its customers’ buying habits, internal stakeholders and suppliers’ capabilities. He states that sole focus on cost management will not work in this case and says that effective supply chain management is all about understanding the behavioural profiles of your customers, internal key stakeholders all the way through to your suppliers. Aligning your behavioural preferences along with your strategic intent and cultural values will get much better outcomes for all concerned.

Procurement realises that multi-disciplinary work clusters within organisations rather than silos proves more effective. This means that people actually get to talk to each other and really connect about projects, production, supply and successful outcomes in the field.

Procurement professionals admit there is still some way to go as far as the reputation and actual capabilities of their profession. They know they need to reposition and rebrand procurement as a strategic partner offering ‘value’, as suppliers also need to. Many procurement professionals are fast realising they need to adopt the same skills they value in highly effective sales people or account managers.

The irony is that often the professions of Procurement and Selling have been pitted against each other when they have all the while really been trying to achieve the same thing – bring value to their clients and/or stakeholders.

Rather than work against each other smart procurement and sales professionals work together each understanding their goals and objectives and where they can find common ground and viable business relationships. Smart procurement and sales professionals are business people looking for viable solutions that serve the end user – the customer, as well as the businesses of both client company and supplier.

This is why I’m building bridges between the two professions. I have invited Craig Rooney, Group Procurement Manager for Porter Davis Homes and former Coles Group Procurement Manager to discuss what 21st century procurement professionals are looking for from sales people that’s beyond the price discussion at the CSE11 Sales leadership conference on 10-11 October 2011. This will be the first time a procurement professional has presented to the sales profession in Australia. As I have been given the opportunity to speak at CIPSA conferences on several occasions I thought it would be good to hear from procurement.

So the sales profession could do itself a favour and pay attention to these changes and ditch the ‘Us versus Them’ scenario when it comes to dealing with procurement. 2011 and beyond is about working with procurement to build viable relationships manage real value.

*It should be noted that Zara has come under scrutiny for breeches of working conditions as it has been accused of using slave labour in Brazil. Their procurement practices are currently under investigation.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

The New Age Customer

August 4, 2011 in Customer Service, Procurement, Sales Leadership, Social Media

In a world still recovering from the GFC and grappling with the buzz of social media, we are now in the midst of a war between retail and online shopping facing daily decisions about purchasing locally or overseas, and B2B sales teams challenged with moving from selling product transactions to being business people who can sell value and ideas.

It’s no wonder that businesses are grappling with the new age customer who has emerged looking somewhat different in this new climate.

New Age Customer

New Age Customer


Sales leaders often struggle with the changing dynamics of the customer relationship. The Sales Industry has spoken for years about the importance of aligning every aspect of sales, marketing and the whole of an organisation around The Customer, yet we see sales forces and organisations at large consistently missing the mark.

That is why CSE11, Asia Pacific’s Premier Sales Leadership Conference is focusing on getting customer relationships right. As part of the conference program I am speaking in concert with a leading procurement professional about The New Era of Professional Selling: The Pathway from Supplier to Partner which is an industry first.

Conference or not, we need to adapt and improve our relationship dynamics. Sales leaders need to ask key questions such as: ‘how do we change our customers’ perceptions around the type of relationship we have with them and the value we bring to their business?’ and ‘how do we move away from being seen as a vendor who ‘sells stuff’ to that of a ‘hard to substitute’ Business Partner who adds critical value to their business?’

Today’s customer is smarter, savvier and more socially aware. They know what they want and can easily find where to get it. They have access to information at the click of a button and are mindful of price. They’re not averse to discussing with strangers the merits of a product or service online and they’re not afraid to name and shame. Competition is high and expectations even higher. The changing role of the customer means that sales people and business people need to adapt or get out.

For business, it’s six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than retain an old one so it is critical that businesses educate all their people on how to work with clients even if they are not in touch with them every day. Interestingly 68 per cent of customers stop dealing with a business because they’re upset with the treatment they received from the sales people, customer service person or someone else in the business.

Prior to the internet most used to suffer in silence and simply go elsewhere. Now customers are making themselves heard via the internet through social networking sites and blogs. Prior to the internet studies revealed that one unhappy customer told 11 others, who in turn told five other people. With the Internet and the variety of blogs available, the flow on effect of an unhappy customer could number in the thousands and be devastating to your business.

The new age customer expects more than ever before but this doesn’t mean you can’t keep up and deliver. It doesn’t need to cost you more but you will need to take time out to revisit your business strategies and reevaluate the way you deal with your customers.

Key areas of importance are:

  • Customer service
    Are you delivering quality customer service both online and in person?Many businesses don’t take enough care with online customer service believing that as a quick and effective communication tool the job is done. Untrue. In fact, more care needs to be taken. By communicating online with your customer, you lose the personal phone or face-to-face opportunity. You therefore need to make more effort with your presence online. Responding quickly to customers with the right information they need is key. Handle queries simply and easily. Make sure you clarify and solve people’s problems and communicate in a positive, professional manner. In some markets you have less than two hours to get back to people before they move on.
  • Listening
    Listen to your customers. Stop talking about yourself and your business. What do your customers want and need? Are you giving it to them? Listening doesn’t need to just be one-on-one. Take time out and explore the web. What is being said about you and your brand? Or what is being said online about your competitors? By reviewing the web you will gain insight into customer’s expectations and will find it easier to give them what they want.
  • Consistency
    People don’t like change but we are resilient creatures and we do adapt to change. We much prefer it if we know it’s going to happen and can prepare ourselves which is why businesses should communicate potential change to their customers and give them time and help to adjust. If you aren’t planning change, make sure your sales team and your customer service people know your processes and are all providing the same advice. Your customer wants to know what to expect when they deal with you and doesn’t appreciate a sudden change of service.
  • Dialogue not monologue
    I always encourage sales people to have dialogues rather than monologues with their customers. The new age customer doesn’t have time to be preached to. They want to talk and they want to be heard. They’re in touch with you because they’re interested in what you have to offer, but they probably have others waiting in the wings to take their business. Long gone are the days of sales monologues, today’s new age customer has completely outgrown this tactic and now want to be listened to. Let your customers do the talking, ask them questions, find out what they are after and then work with them to give them what they want and/or need.

Smart businesses and sales teams know there are many ways to work with our customers and develop deeper value based relationships that are based on true partnerships.

If you can, join us at this year’s CSE11 conference which brings global and local industry case studies of organisations getting customer relationships right. The conference will focus on uncovering the enablers and blockers that will either derail or enable the acceleration of sales performance in today’s market. Over 200 industry sales leaders will be sharing their insights supported by keynotes.

This will be an incredible learning experience with no doubt a few gold nuggets to walk away with! Barrett will also be hosting tables for our clients and contacts to ensure you get introduced and connected to key stakeholders and international speakers. If you would like to attend please download the registration form or please register your interest and we will get an information pack sent to you ASAP.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

How your procurement practices affect your sales and brand

July 6, 2011 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Ethics & Values, Procurement, Sales Culture

Ethical selling and procurement (purchasing) is now in the spotlight. Harvey Norman’s recent publicity surrounding their supposed sourcing and use of Australian native old growth forest timbers in their Chinese made furniture has drawn light on retail procurement practices.

Harvey Norman have been asked by activist groups NGO Markets for Change and GetUp.org.au to explain themselves. GetUp.org.au has even gone to the lengths of creating and distributing a viral advertisement, ‘No Harvey No‘ via the internet after the Television Classification Board refused to classify the ad, concerned about potential legal action if they did so. GetUp.org.au have not been deterred and their internet advertisement has reached its nearly 600,000 members Australia-wide. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What will be the impact? Who knows?

Whether or not GetUp or Harvey Norman are ethically and legally right in their actions, the matter of ethical procurement practices it not going to go away. More frequently people are asking questions about where goods come from, what they are made of, transportation miles, etc. Many people are demanding that businesses act more responsibly when it comes to sourcing and distributing their products.

Procurement is now fairly and squarely in the spotlight and choices surrounding sourcing and distribution activities can have a dramatic effect on a company’s brand, reputation and sales revenue.

Let’s look at another recent example of public influence; Australia’s live export cattle trade is now under intense scrutiny. Why did they let cattle go to these abattoirs? Didn’t they know about the poor work practices in play? No one can escape the net.

Whether you’re sourcing product or supplying product it’s important to acknowledge that in the blink of an eye, the stroke of a key or the post of a tweet, can have you and your practices under the microscope.

Sourcing, supply and distribution should never be simply about managing costs but also about managing consumer expectations.

Professional bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPSA) are now rightly asking questions about how we manage and guarantee supply in an ever changing, often unpredictable and volatile world that is laced with moral causes, principles and philosophies.

The messages are clear; people want frank, measurable, transparent and ethical selling and procurement practices which discourage inhuman and immoral practices, human and environmental degradation and exploitation, excessive consumption and greed. The focus is moving towards forging legitimate business relationships which serve the environment, people, business and communities recognising that ‘we’re all in this together’.

If we are to meet current economic, environmental and social demands and expectations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, we need to engage in ethical and sustainable selling and procurement practices which support the concept of Sustainable Development as part of our business and community strategies moving forward.

So do your procurement, distribution and selling practices stand you in good stead for the future? Could you stand up to the scrutiny experienced by Harvey Norman?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

CRM as a business strategy

June 23, 2011 in Communication, CRM, Procurement

‘CRM as a business strategy’ was voted as the Number 6 Sales Trends for 2011. Looking at your Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM’s) as a piece of software? Think again. While CRM’s are getting better, easier and cheaper to use, this year more companies are positioning their CRM’s as a marketing channel to map the true value of their clients to aid their competitive edge.

For those unfamiliar with CRMs, it’s time to familiarise yourselves or be left behind. A CRM is a strategy to manage your company’s interactions with your customers, clients and your prospects. Long gone is the old trustworthy little black book. Today, CRMs use technology to streamline and automate information, enhancing your business processes. CRMs allow you to measure and record your interactions and keep your sales, marketing and business development system streamlined and efficient.

Not too long ago, surveys reported 70-75% of all CRM initiatives failed. That was yesterday. This is today.

Smart companies will position CRM as a strategy and corporate asset from the outset. This dynamic communication system will be your corporate memory and tactical delivery channel for targeted campaigns and will be used by everyone across the organisation, not just by the sales team. Positioned and used correctly with all this valuable information tracked and mapped, your CRM can be valued as part of your asset register and eventually sold for premium.

How do you create the strategy/vision, manage expectations, organise around the customer and implement CRM best practice? And what are the latest trends in CRM?

According to www.CRMtrends.com the Top 5 CRM Trends for 2011 are:

  1. Branding is more important than ever. Brands are increasingly becoming a surrogate for value, making brand more critical as generic features continue to propagate in the brand landscape.
  2. Value is the new black: Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. The era of “because I said so” is over. This will more than likely challenge most companies.
  3. The rise of the Datarati. Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian once said that “Datarati are companies that have the edge in consumer data insight…Data is ubiquitous and cheap, analytical ability is scarce… The sexiest job in the next ten years will be statistician.” How true. There has been and will continue to be an increased focus on data analysis as companies continue to invest in measuring social media, understanding customer value and modeling customer behavior. If you don’t use your data to talk to your customers, others will. The investment in data aggregation and the hiring of “sexy” statisticians is a major trend in 2011 and will be for years to come.
  4. Customer Experience: Customers have more choices than ever, and are more frugal. This affords them the luxury to demand more. This is the year that the CRM Marketer will be charged with offering a consistent experience across all company touch points and developing the infrastructure to allow knowledge sharing and smart communication. Smart marketers will identify and capitalise on unmet expectations. Companies that understand where the strongest expectations exist will be the companies that survive and prosper. The customer’s mobile and online experiences will begin to evolve and rival the customer’s offline experience – attentive assistants and all.
  5. Personalisation and customisation: In order to be effective in 2011 and beyond, companies will seek to increase customer knowledge and use this insight to talk, engage and interact with their customers more often and more meaningfully in new and innovative ways (including dynamic content, blogs to other social networking). 2011 onwards will be up close and personal, like it or not.

So what is CRM Best Practice?

  1. CRM is about putting your customer at the centre or heart of your business
  2. CRM is about building better relationships with your customers
  3. CRM can give you a 360-degree view of the customer which enables you to improve the quality and satisfaction of each customer interaction and maximize the profitability of your customer relationships… a win/win for both you and your customers
  4. CRM can be practiced across all levels within a business from the ‘C’ Suite to customer service, product development, procurement, distribution, marketing, and of course sales.


  • Do your senior managers, sales people and your broader business know why you have a CRM?
  • If so, do they know how to use it and why it will benefit them to do so?
  • Do they know what information needs to be captured and how it will be used?
  • Do they know how it will help them grow, develop and retain viable clients?
  • Does your CRM strategy and subsequent software make life easier for your sales people to make sales or not?
  • Does your CRM strategy and subsequent software support everyone in your business to make life easier for your clients and each other?

Your CRM needs to be a business strategy and a way of life not just a piece of software.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

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