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Purchasing - How You Should Market Purchasing Skills to Your Peers

In many organisations, the skills of the purchasing department are not always recognised. They are perceived as the team that administers a contract letting process or provides other procurement related administrative services. This means that many of the tasks that determine the ultimate cost of the things that you buy (such as setting the specification or negotiating with suppliers) are carried out by the users or budget holders who often have little commercial experience. The result is that your organisation fails to get the best value from the money it spends with suppliers. If you are in this position, what you need to do is to market your services to your organisational peers outside of the purchasing department.

The first step is to understand exactly what marketing means so that you can use it effectively. One definition of marketing is "the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably". This means that to market your purchasing skills to the rest of your organisation you need a process that helps other departments to obtain the things they need from supply markets at a cost that is lower than if they did it themselves.

So with that in mind, here are some tips for how you can market your purchasing skills.

o The first step is to identify your customers. One way to do this is to analyse your spend data and find out who is currently buying things outside of your purchasing process. This can be as simple as running a report of spend by cost centre that also shows you the suppliers used and then compare this with your contracts register. If people are buying things without a contract then it is a sure sign that they are not using your services.

o Once you know who your potential "customers" are you need to put together a plan for how you can help them. For example, you could compare the price they paid with a contract price that you already have or with an external benchmark. This will show how much you could have saved them. Alternatively, you can explain how your processes for working with suppliers could have helped them to develop a better specification.

o You also need to understand how to anticipate what their needs might be. You can often get this by looking at their annual budget or service plans to see if you can identify any requirements (either revenue or capital) that they may have from third parties. You can them put together a high level analysis of the supply market showing them what levers you can help to pull to drive out costs and increase quality or service.

o You then need to put all of this together into a presentation. Depending on the audience this can be an informal conversation or a more formal presentation. In either case, what you need to do is build your case for involvement in the spending of their budgets. A useful framework for this is to spell out the features of what you can do for them (that is the activities and what you will do), the benefits for them in those features and above all the "reason to believe" - in other words, what evidence can you present to show them that you are capable of delivering your promises. Remember that at all times they will be tuning in to their favourite radio station WII FM (what is in it for me!).

o You need to put all of this into a process so that identifying and anticipating others' needs and turning it into practical solutions for how purchasing can help becomes an automatic thing.
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