Monday 28 March 2016

Will you change the buyer/supplier archetype?

Dear Sales

I saw this quote from a connection on LinkedIn:

'..a sad state of the FM industry today. One of my team provides their best quote first time, in the spirit of transparency, to receive the following response. "What can you take off, as I know everyone in the FM sector always overstates their first offer" '

My reply to this, and the comments made, and other conversations I've had over recent weeks starts with something I saw on the beach this am.

It was a battle of wills between an owner, and his dog.

The owner had been throwing the balls across the beach for some time, with the dog happily tearing across the beach to pick it up, and return it to the owner. This pattern was repeated over and over.
At some point the owner wanted to go home, and therefore stopped throwing the ball. The dog stood there in the middle of a pool of water just waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

Perhaps the owner has won other battles this way in the past - unfortunately other dog walkers shouted up the beach to the owner "is your dog ok, he's been standing there for ages?", and the owner felt compelled to walk towards the dog, pick up the ball, and the dog then happily joined the owner as they walked home.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about stopping game playing in business. Isn't this what's happening between buyers and suppliers - we've both fallen into the stereotype of what's expected of us, and keep playing the game?

If one party wants something to change - just like the dog owner today we need to stop playing the game. It then becomes more about who wins the battle of wills - the buyer or supplier.

I can't tell you why you're seeing more Mr Wolf than enlightened Procurement (it's not the first time I've heard this accusation, as you'll find by following the link to a post on that subject). I've certainly seen my fair share of stereotypical sales people - who say they can provide the service when they can't, who only provide the minority of references with glowing 10/10, and ignore the majority 2/10. Need I continue? Stereotypical sales who play the game well - a game I'm afraid I disengage in - as you'll see from my post Enlightened Procurement.

So what's the answer?

For me it lies in the subject matter of many of my posts here on The Purchasing Coach blog, and applies equally to buyers and suppliers. That is, we all need to:
  • Be the change we want to see in the world - sorry it had to be said - and perhaps my biggest challenge when I get told I'm delusional about how the relationship could be by both parties
  • Be clear on our language - what does trust and respect look like to us? is this supported by our, and our organisation's behaviours? and would the other party agree? 
  • Stop using 'they/them' to stereotype others -  not only does it reinforce a negative belief we have, it also stops us from taking responsibility for solving the problem
  • Take responsibility for how our own behaviour brings out this response in others, and perhaps even check for any toxic leadership attributes
  • Stop game playing
  • Stand up to unacceptable business behaviour
  • Stand in the shoes of the other party - it's a tool that went down very well in a recent workshop to a sales team, and always provides insight to buyers
  • Share examples of good buyer/supplier practice, not just the bad!  
  • Check our language and beliefs about the other party before we engage with them - and ensure our beliefs (and therefore actions) support the outcome we want
  • Build bridges - which reminds me of a more metaphorical post using the closure of the forth road bridge before Christmas as a metaphor for broken communication
If you read the above posts you'll know I won't take too kindly to being told "but you're different Alison".

I may be, and I'm also not alone. Many buyers out there care about suppliers and their own organisation equally, and just want to get value for what they buy. Other buyers with beliefs that align with my own. Beliefs supported by the following posts:
Next time you jump to acting out the sales stereotype (or purchasing stereotype for those buyers reading) - remember you might be dealing with an enlightened buyer (or supplier) - please don't push them back to playing the old stereotype.

Be the change you want to see in the world - it's certainly time for a new archetype don't you think?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

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