Many organisations do not have a corporate policy which requires all departments to use the services of procurement professionals for their purchasing needs. Each department is entitled to purchase on its own behalf. This forces procurement professionals to market their services.
Even in organisations where there is a policy for procurement professionals to manage all procurement, there is still a need to gain the support of internal customers. Supportive internal customers make the procurement process more effective in any organisation.
The starting point for all marketing is to understand the market. This means analysing and categorising the internal customers. Very few procurement professionals study their internal customers in the way that a commercial organisation studies its external customers.
However the tools used for marketing to external customers can be adapted to the needs of procurement professionals vis a vis their internal customers. Understanding why internal customers might not wish to co-operate with their procurement colleagues and how they perceive procurement and the procurement professionals are key steps.
Procurement professionals need to identify what value procurement brings to the process, there are six such values. In addition, the procurement professional needs to identify how much support it will receive from senior management and there is a technique for doing this. Finally, as with all marketing messages, the procurement professional needs to consider the marketing message, both its content and how it should be delivered.
Many organisations have traditionally not appreciated the role which good procurement may play in helping to achieve the goals of the organisation. A procurement overview is a means of supplying key messages about procurement's intrinsic value to the organisation.
An overview deals with the disparity between consumer purchasing (which we all do) and organisational purchasing (which should only be done by people who have received effective training). It defines the objectives of procurement in terms of getting value for the business, minimising risk, managing procurement relationships with suppliers and internal customers, managing transaction costs and the five rights: product, quality, time, place and cost.
Procurement is a communications business. A procurement professional needs to both give and receive communications from the organisation's top management, internal customers, other service departments (such as finance and IT) within the organisation, suppliers and from other procurement professionals.
Although, he or she sits at the centre of this communication web, very few procurement professionals either have any formal training in communication nor are they normally much given to reflecting on the skills needed.
It is important to recognise that the communication differs with the party to whom the communication is being directed. Most people do this instinctively and they never bother to reflect upon it. However, effective communication requires consideration of the needs and recipient values of the audience.
Communication is heavily dependent upon good listening. Good listening requires recognition and systematic practice to remove the various barriers which the listener sets up to the other party's communication. These barriers can be grouped under three main headings: Judging, Sending Solutions and, finally, Avoiding the Concerns of Others. Each of these groups is composed of a number of actions which hinder communication by interrupting the flow from the other party. Once recognised and with practice, it is possible to overcome the blockages caused (even if not intended) by suppressing the urge to act.
Two other blockages are the halo effect and stereotyping. Like many aspects of poor communication, we do them instinctively and frequently we do not even know that we are doing them. The key to good communication is changing our approach from an unconscious, motor activity to an activity which fully engages the active and conscious part of our brain.
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