Since I first began interacting with suppliers as a new buyer in the mid-90’s, I’ve dealt with countless suppliers between then and now. Some of them left me thinking “Now THAT’S how ALL suppliers should be” while others just plain ticked me off. One type of supplier that got under my skin is the supplier who tries to sell you what they want to sell instead of what you want to buy.
I have a couple of examples, one in today’s post, one in tomorrow’s post. Let’s get started with the first example…
Back in the dot-com era, I just joined a new employer and I was responsible for leading a team that was charged with selecting and implementing an eProcurement system. Now, we didn’t have a formal budget yet and the initiative could have gotten pulled off the table at any time. The senior management of my organization believed our message of eProcurement’s value. They saw that our procurement department was processing tens of thousands of paper requisitions a year and knew that there had to be a better way. But, if anything made the project seem too complicated or costly, their support could be yanked without notice.
We evaluated demos and proposals from probably around a dozen providers and found one that seemed to fit our needs rather well. We engaged that provider in discussions of implementation matters to confirm whether the relationship could work. No contract was signed yet.
During one of the discussions, the provider started asking us about non-eProcurement-related things, specifically about how we analyzed our spend. With no “real” budget for technology yet – the eProcurement implementation would be the deciding factor in terms of whether senior management would trust us to spend their dollars on technology – we had an effective, if less than optimal way of using our data warehouse and Microsoft Access to get the spend information we needed in the short term.
Immediately, the provider went into “sales mode” and tried to convince us to also purchase their just-released spend analytics module alongside their eProcurement solution. This would essentially double the cost and add a new project to our agenda. While we knew that getting a more technologically advanced approach to spend analysis was the right thing to do long-term, we also knew that anything less than a quick, successful, and relatively inexpensive solution to our current paper requisition problem would result in management tiring of supporting us.
But, despite our requests for the supplier to focus solely on winning our eProcurement business, they continued to push hard to sell us on their spend analytics platform. It was a frustrating battle. We basically had to be unpleasantly firm to get them to sell us what we wanted to buy, not what they wanted to sell.
I found myself in a similar situation with a different supplier of a different service just recently. I’ll share that example with you tomorrow…
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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