procurement department

It’s a common scenario: a procurement department seeks to take or expand its control over an area of spend but is thwarted by internal customers’ refusal to cooperate.

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Your management knows that the procurement department should manage that spend. You know that you should manage that spend. Consultants tell you that you should manage that spend.

But all of that collective wisdom is defeated by the internal customer. They have no desire to work with you and, without that desire, you don’t stand a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of influencing that spend.

You: “But trade journal articles say that this area of spend should be managed by the procurement department.”

Them: “So what?”

You: “Our competition’s procurement department manages this spend for them.”

Them: “I don’t care.”

You: “The procurement department has been charged with saving the company ten million dollars this year and we won’t reach our goal without managing this spend.”

Them: “Too bad.”

What do you do? How can you win over reluctant (read: stubborn) internal customers?

Well, it takes at least two very important things to convince these people to let the procurement department get involved…




Let me address these one-by-one. First, benefits.

Now, I know there’s a chance you may be thinking – or perhaps even screaming aloud in your office – “This is easy! We will save the company two million dollars!”

That’s common procurement thinking.

And that’s the thinking that will get you absolutely nowhere with reluctant internal customers.


Yes, really.


Well, saving money may be a benefit to the company. And it may be a benefit to you as it is among your goals.

But it doesn’t mean diddly-squat to your internal customers.

They care about themselves. Their goals. Their problems. Their work. Their days.

And there is a chance that a little bit of money saved for the company will not impact them or their goals one bit. It won’t solve their biggest operational problems. It won’t make their work any more pleasant. And it won’t make their days any easier.

So, when you think about using “benefits” to win over reluctant internal customers, you have to think about “benefits to them.”

How is the procurement department’s involvement going to benefit them? Will it make them happier or more successful? Will it move them closer towards their goals? Will it solve their problems? Will it make their work more efficient? Will it make their days easier?

Being able to answer these questions involves some assumptions. It assumes that you actually know them and their interests. That you know their goals actually are. That you know what their problems are, etc.

Do you?

If not, learn these things first. Only then, can you offer suggestions on how procurement involvement can benefit them. It may benefit them by giving them more time to focus on core competencies. It may benefit them by switching business to suppliers whose performance will cause fewer interruptions to their workday. It may benefit them in a number of ways but you can only know what the benefits to your internal customers are if you’ve done your homework to understand your internal customers and their situations.

I’ll talk about “proof” in Part II next month!

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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