I’m at a client site conducting some workshops, something that I don’t get to do very often these days. Their CPO happens to be a long-time client (3rd company he’s at that he’s brought us in) and is in the midst of a Transformation. We got to a discussion about the role that sourcing professionals must play to become more strategic and the group found it quite interesting that one of the roles is that of a consultant. Alumnus from our training workshops will distinctly remember the consulting process and how it MUST be integrated into all phases of the sourcing process, but one of the points that I don’t think gets enough attention is the whole notion of being a salesperson as part of that role.
The last phase of the consulting process is to get the client to Absorb, Accept and Act. And the attendees found it quite fascinating that it was their job to “sell” their deliverables. There is zero value delivered all through a sourcing process all the way to delivering the contract. In fact, there is negative value as lots of time, effort and expenses have been incurred. Unless the solution or deliverable is actually accepted by the stakeholders no value is created.
The first point I would like to remind you about is that persuade, while shown at the end of the process, begins all the way back at the launch. Unless you have identified the right stakeholders, got them engaged early and kept them engaged throughout the process, it is almost impossible to persuade them at the end. Which is why your launch phase is very critical for your success. Ignore that phase at your own peril.
Persuade is the real value add that we as professionals bring because we are typically “impacting without actually doing” meaning that many times, the actual utilization and implementation of our deliverables are in the hands of our stakeholders. And without active and effective persuasion, our ability to impact diminishes significantly?
The next reminder is that our tools, techniques, skills, processes ALL build credibility which makes persuade much easier. Imagine working with a consulting firm where you have very little confidence in how they are doing their work and all of their tools and processes seem sloppy and weak. How much confidence will you have in their recommendations? How effective will they be in persuading you to take action on their deliverables?
It is also easier to get someone to act if they embrace the logic behind your recommendation. It is for that reason that we encourage the use of techniques like the logic diagram to walk the stakeholders through your initial hypothesis and all the way through your conclusions and recommendations. It gives them the opportunity to convince themselves about the recommendation and move them to action. We have seen many final recommendations go nowhere because the stakeholders were not convinced that it was arrived at logically.
And finally, every sales training teaches the most important aspect of selling…ask for the business, close the sale! Similarly, make sure that you ask the stakeholders to validate the recommendations. But more than that, get active agreement on the next steps. If you need resources, have them listed out and get them assigned. If you will need the stakeholders to play a role, get their commitment. If you need funding, get it approved. If you need clearance to challenge or replace an incumbent, secure that immediately. So, if you’re in the midst of a project or a sourcing process right now, please let this serve as a reminder – start planning and acting on your persuade right now.