Winning at Procurement

Over the years, many of our clients have come to us and asked for our advice about how to complete a complex sale with a prospect who has a well embedded and rigid procurement function.

‘No matter how much I use SPIN (Situation, Problem, Impact, Need) and LAMP (Large Account Management Process), I still get referred back to a faceless procurement department. All the time we’ve spent working with the client has been wasted and we’re back to an open competition. What can we do?’

The first step is to recognise reality.

Most organisations of any size have procurement departments (or use consultants) and most of those have matured significantly. Even dynamic, agile organisations have recognised the value that an effective procurement specialist can bring in using 21st century procurement models and technology on major areas of spend.

Your very success, in terms of existing contracts and relationships, rockets you up the ranking and increases the likelihood that procurement will see your contract as an area where they can squeeze additional savings to boost their KPI’s.

Successful sales leaders recognise that having an effective procurement strategy is a critical part of keeping key accounts profitable.  Your sales strategy needs to recognise this.

But what are the characteristics of a successful key account procurement strategy?

  • Understanding how procurement operates in large organisations should now be one of the starting points in modern account management. Whilst they may appear to be faceless functions to the unprepared, they still consist of common processes, people, technology and information. They can be modelled. Based on these models, experienced sales leaders can work out how they operate and what rules they apply, developing long term account management strategies to achieve the best relationships. This means that if you’ve almost completed the sale and you’ve only got procurement to convince then you’ve probably been approaching the problem from the wrong direction.
  • Successful, strategic relationships can be built on the foundations of a firm understanding of what the procurement function is trying to deliver and how they intend to go about it. The rewards of doing so are significant and that’s where we at JA Consulting have focused our research; converting understanding into repeatable tools and techniques that enable key account leads and teams to quickly analyse and understand how their key client’s procurement functions operate and how to get them onside.

With this knowledge and understanding in place you can work to ensure that every sales call has the best chance of converting into a profitable win, rather than a long low, or negative margin tail that struggles to return the sales effort that went into winning it. Start with procurement and if you haven’t already done so, shift your relationship from ‘twist and hide’ to ‘collaborative supplier’.

You can’t go over, them, you can’t go under them, you must work with them.

Since we started rolling out our unique approach to developing sales’ capability to win through procurement, JA Consulting has helped some of the world’s leading brands to ensure that their investment in developing the best sales teams delivers the best returns. Yes, there’s a place for great rainmakers breaking into the new accounts, but that’s no substitute from converting a long fought after win into a long term, profitable key account.

If you’d like to find out more about our ‘Winning with Procurement’ offering or to learn more about key account management skills, get in touch with Robert via email at

About Robert Smithbury

Robert specialises in improving business productivity and performance through business growth and transformation. He has advised, led and delivered tangible, strategically important outcomes across an extensive breadth of organisations and industries in a wide range of roles from Director to Consultant.

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