When companies hire us, their rationale is typically substantiated by arguments for factors like our deep subject matter expertise, our sound experience, our market intelligence, etc., and while all those reasons hold water, we’ve consistently learned that companies don’t become fully aware of the real value we produce until we are executing and delivering. That value, in many cases, is less palpable than the ROI we produce or the savings we generate, but more in the finer details of HOW we engage.  

During a weekly huddle this week, an interesting conversation broke out. As we discussed a set of logistics projects we’re currently supporting for our client, a colleague said: “You know this client had tried doing this twice before and failed?... this time they are moving forward and you know what the only difference is between the last two years and this year? That we were involved. Period.” He was absolutely right, the project itself wasn’t substantially different and the only significant variant was our participation.

As much as I’d like to think that our winning personalities were the catalysts for this project’s success, the conclusion I ultimately reached was that the reason we enabled success for this project was the fact that “we spoke the language.” By that I mean we were able to translate the needs of business into procurement terms and provide a procurement-minded perspective back to the business.

See, this isn’t an easy thing to do and – frankly, it’s a harder thing to sell. But it’s true. When you look inside an organization you will quickly realize that each and every functional area of the business operates and performs at a certain level of sophistication; in our situation, when procurement departments communicate to the business in procurement terms, the business my disengage quickly. They might perceive that not only is procurement solely looking for “savings” and not attending to the deeper needs of the business, but, more importantly, that procurement is simply not savvy enough to understand the business and serve its needs.

A sophisticated procurement unit will be able to understand how each operational area quantifies and captures value and communicate accordingly. In the case of logistics categories, what procurement folks would typically consider “savings” may be very different from the way transportation people see or capture them. In fact, there is such a thing as “too much savings” in logistics, and it’s not a thing anyone would like to see. But we’ll talk about that on an upcoming blog…

Speaking the language entails a deep and wide knowledge of the category, and a clear understanding of how to carry out procurement and strategic sourcing best practices. Any profession can run a sourcing process, but only those who truly speak the language can maximize savings while improving services and keeping everyone happy. It’s similar to ordering a beer in a German pub versus attending Oktoberfest. Oh and by the way… we did help our client realize over a million bucks in savings on that project.
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Diego De la Garza

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