• “Maybe you don’t know how we do things around here”
  • “We already have that tool”
  • “We’re already doing that”
These should be on the list of quotations entitled, “famous last words of middle managers”.

It begs the question; “are they middle managers because they say these things, or do they say these things because they’re middle managers”.

You can draw them out for hours and they’ll insist over and over, that they’ve really got it all under control. All the while, you’re there because they need you to fix the mess they clearly haven’t got under control.

It’s a losing battle. Selling solutions to one who has day-to-day ownership of a process, is tantamount to asking that person if they’d like their job outsourced; maybe because it should be outsourced, but therein lies the rub.

So, after sitting in yet another bitch-board session, with yet another middle management mook , the Sourcerer is even more certain that even discussing solutions with middle management in a pre-sale capacity is salesicide.

This client, of course, was “already doing it”. They “already had the software”. Yet they were paying human beings to review invoices, line-by-line, in order to charge them to cost centers. Worse yet, those people were eyeballing the sum totals as the payment approval process, rather than checking the unit costs or contract compliance. The only worse possible ROI for people and software is to throw the software in the wastebasket.

It’s yet another example of why SaaS (software as a service) is so often a misnomer. Software alone is not the solution. The software must be utilized by folks who know not only what the desired inputs/outputs should be, but also have the training and savvy about what to do with those outputs.

So don’t accept we’re already doing it, we already have it, we already this or we already that . . . as an excuse to stop selling your service. Instead, try selling it to the folks who have the vision and objectivity so assess their goals and define the gaps with you. Then you have a shot to sell a solution.
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Strategic Sourceror

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2 comments so far,Add yours

  1. Great post. Can you also give some info about What do you think on various Solution providers in Strategic Sourcing? Or where this competition is heading towards?

  2. While I cannot (or will not) comment specifically comment about individual providers in the Strategic Sourcing solutions market space, I can lend some of my thoughts on how the space will likely need to evolve. First, in this economy specifically, service providers and software providers need to be creative in their solutions as well as the pricing models for their clients. One-size-fits-all pricing models are no longer an option. Customers need choices in how they pay for their solutions, whether they are contingency based (based on savings), project based, user subscriptions, or a hybrid. The traditional ROI report should be further scrutinized, and I would expect decision makers to put a larger focus on the "hard savings" portion of the analysis rather than the soft-costs that many software providers pitch with their offerings.

    I also believe the largest software players in the market need to reevaluate their ability to produce the results that their clients are looking for. Sure, there are some great software and on-demand packages out there, but when the "implementation team" is nothing more than a bunch of engineers and analysts that will spend hours or months on end with the clients trying to figure out how every last cent of spend can be crammed into a sourcing tool, you simply do not see the returns that traditional consultants would provide. As great as these tools have become, they simply do not have advanced sourcing intelligence, creative thinking, commodity expertise, negotiation skills, and most importantly, the ability to interact and learn the wants and needs of supplier and their sales team --which are all things a consultant can bring to the table.

    So, in my opinion, expect to see well-known software providers partnering with more traditional established consulting firms to develop solutions that the market really needs. I expect to see more leading tools providers partner with leading strategic sourcing firms to jointly develop solutions that empower their customers with the latest technologies to make their job's easier and more efficient as well true ROI models that remove hard costs from the supply chain in order to recover the costs of the software more quickly. I expect these partner firms to offer complimentary products, even if not in the same commodity in order to provide the right solution for their customers.

    For instance, a prospect needs an e-Procurement system, and engages a "team" of service providers. The tools provider implements the tools in order to drive some hard-dollar savings into the supply chain process as well as lots of soft-cost savings. The consulting part of the team may assist in the implementation of those tools, but will also concurrently focus on an entirely different category, such as telecommunications, where the tools just are not going to drive the maximum savings opportunity. By the end of the initial engagement, the customer will have tools that are implemented and in use in the majority of their spend categories and at the same time will already be recovering savings from the consulting engagement(s) that was being concurrently worked on.

    So as much as I see this as closer to the "perfect solution" scenario, only time will tell if this model pans out. In reality, many decision makers are not making decisions based on what is right for their company, they are making decisions based on if they think they will retain their job or not. Unfortunately, in a mass-majority of these cases, the decision makers will continue to pick the 600lb gorilla solution provider just because they know they will not get questioned for it.