Dealing with procurement? Be confident about your product

I recently had the pleasure of delivering part of a workshop on dealing with procurement – I do the psychology bit – and a theme recurred. Have you ever seen a footballer step up to take a penalty and just KNOW they’re going to miss? Or seen a tennis player step out on Centre Court and just KNOW they’re going to blow it in the first set? Well, I suspect that’s how it can be in many conversations with procurement. And we decided it’s about confidence.

In much the same way that the beaten-before-they-start sports person gives all the clues in their body language, so it is with negotiators. The hard drive seems to have been wiped of all the experiences, successes, hard-earned wisdom and sheer nous that’s actually still in there somewhere. The focus is all on NOT getting beaten, or at least not too hard. The behaviour becomes about seeking approval, trying to please and appease.

OK, so plenty of procurement people do indeed have a lot of clout. But we’re not in front of the headmaster here. What often concerns most procurement people more than the price is the value. And chances are, we overlook the many ways in which we can and do deliver great value.


So here’s your homework


Write a list of all the ways in which you deliver great value. You’ll probably have no problem getting started on this: there are obvious pointers such as objectives achieved, deals done, time saved.

When you hit a bump, stop and think about a recent project and all the different steps of what you delivered. Write them down, making sure you’ve captured each and every step – easier said than done if you’ve been doing something for a while, so take time to think it through.

There are probably several steps you’ve either discounted or taken for granted that add value. They may be how you updated information in real time, how you secured the best deal, how you monitored competitors, how you came up with something new or how you briefed people to come up with great ideas. Remember to look at the time taken and time saved.

The tennis player has probably won heaps of matches with an impressive range of shots. The penalty taker has probably scored plenty. They both just need to remind themselves of WHAT they did and HOW they did it. So it is with negotiators, when they take some time to look at what they do, and discover that what’s ordinary for them is extraordinary for someone else.

Armed with this vital information about how you deliver great value, you can then work on your body language. Try listing the ways in which you deliver value, this time on your feet and out loud. I highly recommend Amy Cuddy’s great TED talk for some tips and inspiration.

It’s OK to be confident about what you do if you’re certain of the facts and can back up what you say with evidence.

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