Bridging the gap between buyers and suppliers in services procurement

Exploring supplier relationships with procurement and the importance of 360 degree feedback.

Episode highlights

The two-way street of healthy supplier relationships
Supplier value, score-carding and 360 feedback

Posted by: ZivioReading time: 54 minutes

With Jill Robbins, President, Business Fierce

00:00:00 - Falling in love with strategic sourcing and transforming procurement
00:12:35 - Tactical information fuelling procurement's strategic value
00:19:10 - The two-way street of healthy supplier relationships
00:27:00 - Importance of qualitative feedback
00:35:20 - Supplier value, score-carding and 360 feedback
00:45:00 - Predictions of challenges for the next 12 months


Jonny Dunning:  0:00     Okay. And we’re off. So I’m very pleased today to welcome Jill Robbins to the podcast, who is the President of Business Fierce. Thank you very much for joining me, Jill, How are you? 

Jill Robbins:        0:11     Great. Thanks for having me, Jonny. 

Jonny Dunning:  0:13     Excellent stuff. And so we’ve got some interesting topics to discuss today. Taking to account your experience and what you do, we’re going to be looking at services procurement, and looking at how buyers and suppliers can effectively bridge the gap and work together effectively. And also looking at how they can really find the value with a specific emphasis on that keyword, their value. And so the lots of cool stuff for us to get into. Before we do, you’ve got some very interesting background. And I would love it if you could just talk us through a little bit about how you started off and what your journey has been through the industry.

Jill Robbins:        0:48     Yep, absolutely. So definitely, we’ve all got a story to tell. [I’m] in procurement supply chain for over 20 years now. I started my career in customer service quality assurance, which is nothing to do with supply chain and sourcing. I worked for a small airline. And then after 9/11, I was escorted to my car by arm security. So at 21 years old, I was taught some pretty hard knock lessons. In [Inaudible 01:22], the job market sucked at that point in time. And then I went to a large hospital network. And I was doing medical information sourcing. So I worked in the IT department. But I was sourcing medical information technology doing SRM, supplier management and performance. So that’s really where I got the exposure to the external network and the world of procurement as we know it. Our department was then outsourced to Accenture. I did not want to be a consultant at that point in my career. So I went to Ingersoll Rand. And that’s really where I fell in love with strategic sourcing. So [I] had a global role, had a great mentor, and had a lot of responsibility. That’s back when we were issuing POs out of Oracle manually. So I would cut POs. I would negotiate contracts. I would devise category strategies, really like the world was at my fingertips. There was a lot of opportunity. And like I said, that’s where I fell in love. I started getting my certifications in purchasing management, that’s what it was called 20 years ago. So I have my CPM. I have my CPSM, you know, transform their indirect team. From there, I went to Eli Lilly and Company. I was in a variety of roles. I had different responsibilities from research and development to IT. I was in purchase to pay. So I have a strong passion for optimization around digital procurement, around ensuring the data is right and optimizing processes. So connecting all of those dots. So many people think, well, strategic sourcing is here, purchase to pay is here, but it is all connected. And it’s all one value chain. I’ve done procurement transformation building teams from the ground up as well. So mostly on the indirect side, I’ve done new product planning as well. I’ve got my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. Also, while in the corporate world, my husband and I have been entrepreneurs. So I’ve written a children’s book. We have run franchise of Indoor Trampoline Parks. We have a warehousing business. So I see things from a different lens. So having been in the corporate world for a long time, I’m able to see across the value chain, ask some of the tough questions, [and] break down silos. So it’s given me a really unique perspective, versus just being a corporate employee for that 20 years. And what we’re going to talk about today, I think, I’ll be able to share a lot of those insights and in my unique perspective, based on my experience.

Jonny Dunning:  4:27     Yeah, that’s really interesting. And it’s like the kind of juxtaposition between the procurement and the sourcing side of things and also the entrepreneurial side of things. Because I think in procurement sometimes, there’s quite multifaceted skills required. [And] for that type of role, you need to be good at relationships, you need to be in negotiation, you need to be strategic, you need to be able to plan and be structured. And do you think the work that you’ve done within that kind of purchasing procurement world has been useful in the entrepreneurial stuff that you’ve also done?

Jill Robbins:        4:58     Absolutely. It’s a two way street. Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of this circular view, if you will. And the corporate experience, managing billions of dollars and spend across 60 to 70 countries around the world definitely has given me a strong perspective around operational excellence,  driving that supplier accountability from an entrepreneurial mindset, as well as just managing employees, and managing the relationships, and treating them as an equal. I’ve always been a firm believer, everyone that I’ve ever managed or has been on my team, I don’t view myself as an alpha, [rather] I view myself as part of the team. I’m there to support, break down barriers, work through the [Inaudible 05:51] that exists in every corporate environments. And that’s what we’re there for is. It is to add value. And there’s no better see in a corporation than sitting in indirect procurement. You see across the entire value chain across all the categories, you can see the inefficiencies, you can see how the silos exists, and how you can then implement efficiency and source so that you’re optimizing that third party spend.

Jonny Dunning:  6:26     Yeah, it’s quite unique position, in the sense that you get a great visibility internally, but you also get this external view as well, where you’re looking out to the suppliers and seeing what’s happening in the market. But also you’re getting the feedback from the suppliers and what’s going on within your organization. And I think we can come on to talk about this in a little bit more detail. But I think that you’re absolutely right. It’s an incredibly strategic kind of pivot point within an organization. And one thing I was gonna ask you that you mentioned about your mentor early on, when you were kind of really falling in love with the procurement world, how important do you think that was? And the reason I asked that is I had a recent conversation with the chief procurement officer of [Inaudible 07:04] recently. And he was kind of saying, “It’s a shame that for some people that a lot of people tend to sort of fall into procurement, where it actually... And to a certain extent, sometimes, the value of procurement hasn’t been maybe as recognized as it should be within organizations.” I think possibly COVID has changed that. Because procurement had absolutely come to the fore. But how important for you was that having a strong mentor to make you kind of grow into it and appreciate the business sector?

Jill Robbins:        7:35     Yeah, so having a strong mentor is critical. And a lot of companies have it very structured. I think, keeping it informal, keeping it fluid, and keeping it safe is critical. We are human, [so] you are going to make mistakes. You cannot be hung out to dry. If you’re trying something new within a category, if you’re looking to the marketplace for innovative solutions or advanced technologies, you’ve got to have some freedom and some wiggle room to try new things. And there was one contract that I was negotiating at the time I was at Ingersoll Rand, and we were looking to bring in a new technology. I was in the security and safety division. So it was a kind of a keyed lock system that was proprietary in New Zealand. We ended up acquiring the company. It was a smaller company. But at the time, we were just negotiating with them. And I was able to bring the cost down by 50% just by having a conversation. So one of my taglines for business sphere says you don’t get what you don’t ask for. That applies in business. That applies in life. You may get “no”, but you’ll get a lot better “yes” than you ever thought possible. So just having that support system, and knowing that your career is fluid, and you’re able to make mistakes, you’re able to try new things, and you’re not going to be crucified by doing so. So it’s really that culture of those relationships that support system, and knowing that it’s a safe environment. And I think, [and] like you said, COVID has highlighted the importance of procurement and supply chain. But having that access to real time data, to real time analytics has been a struggle. That’s why we’ve seen supply chain disruptions. Because procurement has been reactive for many, many decades. And it’s time for us to be proactive and to start asking the tough questions. Our counter parts in sales, they would never tolerate the crappy data that we have to deal with day in and day out - the lack of visibility. They have CRM data that is readily available. And it’s, of course, what you put into it, but procurement is an engine that is critical to a successful organization. So it can’t just be about top line growth. And procurement can definitely contribute to that top line growth. You can have creative terms and conditions in services contracts, shared accountability, shared risk models, whether it’s with an agency [or] whether it’s with a consulting supplier, but having that accountability and that two way street, don’t just sign up for a fee for service. Because your suppliers should be an extension of your company. And if they don’t have skin in the game, then they just want to meet their quarterly numbers, I’ve got that deal signed, and then they just disappear, that should be pretty telling to you about that company and that salesperson.

Jonny Dunning:  11:17   Yeah, I mean, it never ceases to amaze me the lack of information, particularly within services procurement, that teams have. I mean, in the area of goods materials, where it’s a lot of catalog buying, okay, and its complex supply chains. We generally, people will have the information. And traditional kind of top level procurement systems are much more geared towards handling that kind of more binary type of transaction. With services, it’s just so complex and nuanced. But there’s so much potential value there. And I think when you look at the influence of procurement within the C suite, for example. As we talked about earlier, they procurement sit at this kind of junction of where there’s a lot of data going both ways. But if that’s not captured, and if procurement people are just transacting, rather than engaging in strategic activities, then that really does limit that exposure and the value of going through to the C suite. And interestingly, I don’t know if you saw the Deloitte CBO survey results and really interesting stuff. Now one of the things that I found quite surprising, and that someone else was talking about recently. It was just that, I think the percentage was about around 70%, of the time of most CPOs is actually spent on transactional activity rather than strategic. And the people that were really leading the field was still spending 60% of the time on transactional activity. And that’s where I think the kind of digital transformation, use of best of breed technology can really change that. But just moving from that transaction to a strategic point of view, and being able to identify the best suppliers. So in terms of value and driving the top line or driving the bottom line, if you can have that visibility, then they can see whether services suppliers are providing an effective service, but they can also see where they’re delivering additional value. And this is where it comes into that kind of cost versus value conversation. In the sense of, yeah, you could cut costs, but if you’re cutting costs, you might be cutting out suppliers that are actually driving growth and giving you significant returns. But with the COVID situation, how do you think...? If you look at the US in particular, people just had to get stuff done. How do you think that’s changed the relationship or procurement with their organizations or the view of procurement in general?

Jill Robbins:        13:35   Yeah, so I’ll answer that question. But just to back up to a comment that you had made around the transactional, I see that tactical and that transactional information to be pivotal to driving that strategic value. So if you don’t get that right, then you are potentially setting up your category managers [and] your strategic sourcing professionals to fail. So you’ve got to get that right. And it’s an engine. And it’s that value chain connectivity. So I really think that the struggle with CPOs is, they’re not investing, and they’re like, “Oh, well, that’ll just get taken care of by PTP or by the operational team.” And it’s like, no, there is so much value there. And it’s garbage in, garbage out. So you have to have that diligence, that data governance and capturing all of the right metadata from those contracts, the KPIs, if there’s a supplier management plan, so really having that discipline upfront to do the right thing, so that you’re not putting band aids and you’re not chasing things down stream, if that makes sense.

Jonny Dunning:  14:55   They’ve got to automate. And I think if you look at services, unless you can capture it on a granular level, not just up to the point of contract, but post-contract, what’s actually being delivered what was actually agreed, you know, typically most organizations found that find that very difficult in that kind of top level P2P STP systems. And as you say, if they’re spending all of their time doing transactional and tactical stuff, clearly, a lot of that is going through manual processes. If they can automate the bits that need automating, then they can take that data and translate that into the strategic value.

Jill Robbins:        15:32   Yep. And just don’t discount. So automate and validate and inspect, so that that becomes a catapult and a launching pad, so that you’re able to deliver that strategic value. So to answer the COVID question, a lot was highlighted after and during and early on in COVID. I can remember, when [Inaudible 15:55], our CEO or CFO, they wanted to know every supplier that had payment terms less than X for every contract. That was a huge manual effort, because we were in the process of separating from a previous parent. Contracts were all over the place. The metadata was not captured. So it physically took attorneys, it took sourcing professionals manually going through those contracts, putting it in an Excel file, and then reporting it up. That’s ridiculous. In this day and age, you’ve got to automate and you have to have that information readily available. There are systems out there that can do it. There’s artificial intelligence, there’s machine learning, there’s RPA, leverage all of those technologies. But what indemnification clauses, what termination for convenience do we have, what are alternative sources of supply, how are we mapping that supply chain and all of the subcontractor. So what COVID has highlighted is, you have got to be proactive and you have to use those advanced technologies, so that you have those reports at your fingertips. You can say, “Oh, well, this supplier is performing optimally here. And having that 360 degree feedback, here are the alternative sources of supply. And here are all of the terms that we have in that contract.” The other thing Jonny is, when you’re working in a global organization, you have sourcing professionals or operational professionals or legal professionals around the world that may be negotiating a contract with that same supplier that you already have a contract with. So you could have 5~10 different contracts with an IBM or with a PwC. And it’s shame on the company. You should know your suppliers better than they know you. And that’s not always the case. And COVID has highlighted that you can be taken advantage of unbeknownst to you. So getting that data and getting your house in order is hyper critical, so that you’re optimizing your effort and you’re maximizing your top line growth.

Jonny Dunning:  18:21   Yeah. And it kind of just keys into that overall accountability, doesn’t it? 

Jill Robbins:        18:26   Oh, absolutely. 

Jonny Dunning:  18:27   Yeah, on both sides. You know, procurement in accountability to have control of the data, and the just the overall C suite responsibility and accountability to give procurement the scope to have that control and have that data. And I think COVID has just really proved how important that is. And I think it’s also done some really good things for procurement as well in just showing how well procurement teams have adapted, and as I say, just get things done almost in like an emergency footing. Suddenly, all the things that might normally get in the way of procurement doing their job well, to a certain extent removed. But as you say, the lack of automated infrastructure and data capture around what they’re doing generally, was highlighted as a real problem. And so just on the point of that accountability, so there’s the accountability within the organization. And what about the accountability on the supply side, just in terms of that value proposition and delivery to the customer? And then what the customer does with it?

Jill Robbins:        19:31   Yep. So for me, selling a solution, selling a good, selling a service or a software solution. Great! You’ve done your job, you sold the value, you’ve got the contract sign, but for me, that relationship starts once that contract is signed. So how are you seeing through and committing to everything you promised. So how did the implementation go? Are you validating? Do you have the right KPIs in place? I’m a big fan of that shared accountability. It’s a two way street. You don’t want finger pointing. You want collaboration. So ensure that you’ve got the right metrics and the accountability in place, so that both the customer and the supplier are successful. And you have to have regular check ins. It can’t be these quarterly business reviews that then become a dog and pony show, and you’re just trying to up, so tell me, how things are going. And then you can have real dialogue. And then you can talk about, “Oh well, we need to optimize here. We need to tweak here.” So just like any relationship, it can’t happen on a one off basis. And you have to have, like you said, that circular view in those check ins and agreed upon metrics, so that both parties have skin in the game.

Jonny Dunning:  21:08   Yeah, and I think it’s interesting when you look at different supply of business models and commercial models, in terms of how much they are kind of like [Inaudible 21:16] and done. And then the suppliers got what they want. And they’re not super motivated through their commercial model to continue to support it, perhaps as well as they could do, versus either the slightly different models or situations where procurement positioning very effectively. So that supplier is invested in the long term success of whatever it is they’re delivering. I mean, that certainly for our business model, managing services spend with technology is absolutely tied into the successful management as much addressable spend as possible. So it motivates us towards that long term goal as an organization. That’s why we think anyway. But for some suppliers, I think it can be quite tricky, because their commercial model is almost like, training them to kind of just do the deal. And then and then leave it. But I think there’s a responsibility with procurement teams to make sure that doesn’t happen as well.

Jill Robbins:        22:07   Correct. And I would coach these organizations and their sales teams, because procurement.... They build a relationship with that account rep, with that sales rep, and if they then hand it off to a customer success team, and then they disappear, and they’re on to the next account, and they’re on to the next commission check, shame on them, because they should still have a pulse on what is going on. And they’re accountable. They signed that deal. They got that deal. They understand all the nuances within that customer. And then if you just hand it off to somebody else, there is no way that they understand everything that took six months prior [or] eight months prior. [And] some deals [in] these large enterprises take up to a year or more. So having that person needs to be involved during that implementation, and they should have skin in the game. They shouldn’t get their full commission if the implementation fails. I mean, I think some of these incentive models and the sales compensation models are flawed in that respect, and they should be spread out across that implementation. Is that the customer happy? Are we delivering on what we promised? So that’s a challenge, I think, on both sides. And those conversations need to be happening. And sometimes it’s a tough conversation, because whether it’s a tech company [or] whether it’s a consulting company, that’s not how it’s measured. Once the deal signed, its like, “Oh, now we’ll issue all of the reward and recognition.”

Jonny Dunning:  24:00   So at that kind of post-contract signature point, what do you see is the key ongoing role of procurement on that side? Because, again, depending on how our systems and processes set up... I mean, in a lot of organizations with services, we see, a contract will get signed and get put in a shared file. And it’s never looked at again. And that’s not procurements fault, because if procurement want to find that information, as you said, with the credit COVID stuff, you’ve got to go and manually read through it. Are there any milestones? Have they been changed since? Has anyone even measured them? So what do you see as the key role of procurement of that post-contracts in [Inaudible 24:36]?

Jill Robbins:        24:37   In a perfect world, I would say that there should be checkpoints, whether it’s on a monthly basis [or] on a bimonthly basis. And there should be KPIs defined and shared metrics. So how are we performing? How is our team performing, whether it’s in marketing, whether it’s in IT, whether it’s in research and development? Wherever it falls within the business, there should be that two way dialogue, and it shouldn’t just sit in a shared file in a black hole, and then get pulled out on a quarterly basis, and then it’s like, “Okay, oh shit, we’ve got to validate all of these metrics.” It really should be a fluid two way conversation and accountability. And I view it as sports. Every point of the game, whether it’s basketball, whether it’s golf, whether it’s baseball, you don’t just check in at the end of the game, and see how everyone performed on the team. You’re doing check ins, the coach, “Hey, you need to tweak this. Hey, you’re sitting out because you screwed this up.” So it should be the same mentality. And it can’t just be a one and done. So taking that full, that big picture view, and then having all of those checkpoints in... Like I’m a broken record, but getting the right KPIs in place, and then showing your card, say, “Hey, we did not perform up to snuff here. This is what we’re going to do about it. And this is what we’re going to tweak.” And then sharing with the customer, “Hey, this person didn’t show up to this meeting. This person didn’t follow through and deliver on these three milestones. So it set us back.” So you have to have that trust and that open dialogue.

Jonny Dunning:  26:40   Yeah, I think that’s a hugely important point you make there around this whole concept of this two way street, because just the concept of procurement, looking at it and looking at their organization and saying, how are we performing in trying to get towards this objective, I think that’s crucial. Because how often do suppliers end up in a situation where they’re trying to do their job, and they’re getting held up by delays that are completely outside of their control. And obviously, they can get end up getting blamed for that where it’s not necessarily their fault. And so I think that’s a critical thing to kind of identify and understand. But it’s quite a hard thing to measure, unless you’re actively tracking the project as it goes. And one of the things that we look at is, in terms of measuring supplier performance, we’ll look at quantitative metrics. Whether every project is delivered at a milestone level? Is it on time? Is it to budget? Was there any scope creep? And other kind of metrics. And the qualitative side of it is incredibly important, just in terms of, overall, did the supply do a good job? Measuring them on things like innovation, or diversity or communication. But if the qualitative and quantitative things are being looked at, it gives you that accurate overall picture, because a supplier might go over budget, and it might take longer. They might have nailed it first time, and they might have done a great job. Unless you’re combining those areas of feedback and actually capturing it, that could look very different for a CFO looking at budget versus spend, for example.

Jill Robbins:        28:10   Absolutely, yeah. And that’s why you have to track and you have to be very transparent. Because if the business has said, “Hey, we need to add here. We need to take away here.” And you’re not looking at the qualitative and the quantitative together. And they’ll just say, “Well, there was scope creep or there was a change order here.” Its like, “What was the context? What were the underlying circumstances?” And oftentimes, they have to look themselves in the mirror and say, “Hey, we cause that.” So our supplier was working with us alongside and delivering and they made the proper modifications. So I’m a big fan of... The more you are able to track it... And not to be arduous about it. You need to make it as simplistic as possible. So that both parties are playing nicely. But then the data can be used to both parties advantage.

Jonny Dunning:  29:12   Yeah. And some of that works up front, isn’t it? Defining the requirement effectively, defining the KPIs, defining the deliverables, [and] capturing that, not just sitting in a PDF, but capturing that in a system, [and] then actually measuring against what’s been agreed isn’t that arduous? But just touching on one other point just regards to the kind of two way street of that relationship and who’s performing in trying to meet that objective, I sometimes hear stories of consultancies, maybe slightly being left with a slightly bad taste in their mouth or slightly disappointed in terms of being brought in to deliver advice and proposals that don’t get actioned. That classic thing of coming in and doing a piece of work and putting it all in place and then being seen as having possibly not done a very good job, because the client didn’t implement it. But weren’t necessarily asking the consultancies, but then help them implement it. Do that sort of thing you see? And do you hear that sort of frustration within suppliers?

Jill Robbins:        30:08   I do. And I have strong opinions on this. Not all consultancy firms are created equal. So I’ll just put the moose on the table. So many of these marquee firms breed lifetime advisors or consultants, and they’ve never worked in a business. And I have a hard time taking advice, and paying tens of millions of dollars for an opinion or a recommendation when they have never done it in the business world or within that industry or within that function. So the onus is on procurement and on the business. And procurement has a very unique seat. And they are an objective third party. They can ask the tough questions. Don’t be afraid to piss somebody off. Do it in a polite and respectful way. But ask some of those tough questions because their resume may look great. But if they’ve worked at five different [Inaudible 31:26], at PwC, at KPMG, at McKinsey or BCG. Okay, great! But did you actually own what you recommended? Did you actually see it through? Do you understand all the inner workings of the business? Because when you work in a business, there are a lot of moving pieces, and it’s easy to just fly in and call out 20 things that are being done wrong, and then say fix all of these things, and your ROI will go up this much, your margin will go up this much, and you will improve your OPX by 20%. Bullshit! You really have to understand. So that’s [why] I am a big fan of people who have actually worked in businesses, whether that be private equity, whether that be in any type of in industry [or] business. But you need hands-on experience. And I’m speaking, because I’ve worked in a business, and I’ve been an entrepreneur. So I bring a unique set of experiences and an end lens to this. Not to say, all recommendations are bad, but what I have seen is they fly in, they interview 50 people, and then they regurgitate what they heard within those interviews, and its like, “Take a step back. If you would just listen to your people, you would probably be more profitable and more efficient, because they’re just regurgitating and getting paid tens of millions of dollars.” So that’s been some of my experiences. I am a fan of the niche consultancy firms that have deep expertise in their domain whether that’s procurement, whether that’s supply chain, whether that’s marketing whether that’s M&A, but defaulting to, and executives are guilty of this across every industry, across all over the world, they get sold by a lot of these big firms that promise the world, and then they have to end up hiring someone else or cleaning it up, or like you say that they don’t follow through. So it’s, it’s a tough balance. And I think when you have a practitioner that has seen, “Hey, this is what it’s actually going to take. And here is a team that can execute on that. So I can do an assessment. I can make all these recommendations. And then you can follow through with a very action oriented, accountable team.” So that was a long winded answer, but hopefully made some sense.

Jonny Dunning:  34:29   No, its super interesting to hear your opinions on that and feedback from real stuff you’ve actually seen, because I totally agree with you. I’m of an entrepreneurial mindset myself as well. And it’s never as simple as just running a formula. Stuff happens! It’s real life. It’s real people. A business to a certain extent has always has an organic element to it. It’s not just metric driven. And I’ll totally, totally agree. And I think when you look at the relationships that exist with some of the big strategic consultancies, they don’t even go anywhere near procurement a lot of time. But I think that’s changing where procurement are being brought in more to get involved in and things like COVID have helped. Let’s face it. Procurement teams and services procurement are pretty good at working to budget. But the tricky thing is, if the right technology isn’t in place, if they haven’t got the data, they can’t really work to value. And so going [inaudible 35:23] budget is one thing, but actually knowing what you’re getting from it is another. And when you go through something like COVID, just working to budget isn’t good enough anymore when companies are spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And so I think the supplier visibility side of things is also really important. Because when you’ve got these big suppliers, they tend to like have blanket coverage. And it’s like the whole thing of... You never get fired for bringing in X, big name, whoever you think. And having visibility of the performance in your supply chain, particularly.... One of the things that we like to do with clients is break it down by category. So for example, they might have one of the big financial consultancies doing a great job in finance and accounting, but they’re spending tens of millions with them a year in marketing services or something like that, where they’ve got some really specific suppliers that are actually doing a much better job. But it’s just getting kind of like washed through. And I think also, that’s where organizations can miss a trick on things like innovation and supplier diversity, where within their supply chain, they might have these fantastic suppliers, but if they’re not identifying them, these smaller ones just kind of blend into the background a little bit, and has missed opportunity.

Jill Robbins:        36:34   Absolutely. Yep. And that’s why having that full balanced scorecard is hyper critical. And having that objective data and those metrics is powerful. Data tells a story and then you can make informed decisions based on that. But it takes everyone playing nicely together. Because if you have holes, either the supplier is not responding or the clients not responding, then it becomes difficult. So making that an easy effort to get that accountability, to get that supplier performance, and everything in one place. Visualize it, tie to how the categories performing overall, what’s the spend on contract, what’s the percent of spend with approved suppliers [and] with diverse suppliers, what innovation are they bringing to the table, what’s the impact on the top line and bottom line, so tying all of that together, is a very, very powerful tool.

Jonny Dunning:  37:44   Yeah. When you think about it, bearing in mind, the size of spend on services of all types - I’ve seen estimates somewhere between 1,000,000,000,020 trillion annual - it’s incredible that this problem hasn’t been solved before, but it’s a very complex one. But just to go back to a point you made there of talking about the kind of the feedback side of things, so that the, you mentioned the supplier score carding, but 360 degree feedback is another area I thought be interesting to touch on. In the sense that that is something that’s probably a lot of organizations find it quite difficult to do. And a lot of suppliers find it quite difficult to get their point across. Do you think that the bit there’s mainly missing and that 360 degree feedback is actually the clients themselves taking that feedback back in, or do you think it’s just a process has not done very well, in general?

Jill Robbins:        38:38   Probably all of the above, Jonny. I think, traditionally procurement is always understaffed. I mean, it doesn’t matter the size of the company. I mean, there’s always a fire drill, whether you are the most strategic professional managing a category, you get pulled in to all kinds of tactical stuff, whether it’s with your stakeholders, whether it’s with the P2P organization, whether it’s with your boss, or someone asking to run a report. And that’s what I talked about early on is, we’ve got to become more proactive. So that we can work collaboratively and we can get all of that feedback. So it’s making it easy to do the right thing. And that’s something that has to happen and using advanced technologies to do so.

Jonny Dunning:  39:35   Yeah, like we said before. It’s automating the things that need automating. And procurement people have all these fantastic skills, a broad range of skills that can come together to form a strategic opinion based on data. If they’re spending all of their time running around dealing with manual processes and totally inefficient stuff, which is why there’s a lot of investment at the moment in procurement technology, because it’s an area that maybe has been underserved. But particularly in very specific areas, like we were talking about kind of specific verticals, where there are differences. And I think the market is definitely starting to recognize that now. But just going back to a kind of probably one of the key points that we were going to discuss today is around value. So obviously, there’s feedback going both ways if there’s more visibility. If you look at the sales side of it from a supplier point of view, I know, you’ve got some interesting opinions around the kind of value driven approach versus just quotas.

Jill Robbins:        40:34   Yes. Anytime you’re selling, you really need to do your homework on the target, on the customer. Slow down and just like you hear from recruiting coaches, don’t send the same resume to every company. So the same applies to selling. It can’t be the same sales message to every company that you’re selling to. Get to know them on a personal level. If they are publicly traded, listen to their earnings calls. Don’t just read the transcript. Listen to the inflection in the voices, listen to the analysts questions, because they will ask some [Inaudible 41:18]. And they will put these executives on the spot, and you will hear them tumble. I mean, they will not answer every question the way that they probably wish they would have. So use that and you’ll understand what challenges they’re facing, what opportunities are on the table and tie your solution into what’s their strategic growth trajectory, what are their priorities (near term [and] longer term), and that will then give you a leg up, and then you can start talking about what the value is. So something that I like to use with my clients is from BCG. And it breaks down the different value levers. So there’s seven procurement value levers. So there’s commercial lever. So along supplier management, along bundling, location optimization. So basic things we’ve all heard of, but speak procurements language. When you are selling to procurement, you want to make them the hero. Then there’s process levers. What can you do from a demand management perspective? And you may not be able to hit every single one of these seven, but where your solution, where you’re good, where your service comes in, tie those and play that up. And then you’re able to articulate what is that ROI, [and] what does that total cost optimization. I’m not a big fan of total cost of ownership because it can be very arbitrary. But when you talk about total cost optimization, that’s where their ears will open up. And do more listening than talking. So before you get to this point, you’ve done your homework. Ask the open ended questions with procurement. And then you can talk about the process optimization, the demand management, [like], “Hey, what are your near term priorities here? What are the longer term priorities?” And then the technical levers are around that standardization and that redesign: make versus buy. This is a big one in procurement. Historically, procurement thought they could do everything in house. And as you’ve talked about, all of these solutions in procurement and supply chain that are coming to market, there is more venture capital money being invested in procurement technology, supply chain technologies, then any other information technology space out there. I mean, it is unbelievable just how many solutions are popping up, because there’s a real need around sustainability, around supplier visibility. You name it! What we just talked about supplier performance management, supplier identification. So that’s what I would say, Jonny, is going to set sellers apart is, listening more than talking, doing your homework, don’t just pitch, truly understand, so you can then become that trusted advisor. And if your solution is not best for a particular client, say so, say, “Hey, there’s someone I’d like to introduce you to that I think would be better suited.” And they will remember that and they will come back to you. And you may have an opportunity 6 months [or] 12 months down the road. And they will remember, “Hey, they didn’t just try to sell me their solution. They knew that it wasn’t the best time [or] it wasn’t the best fit.” So don’t be afraid to do that.

Jonny Dunning:  45:02   Yeah. And they’ll recommend you. And ultimately, it comes down to genuinely trying to solve a problem rather than just trying to sell something. But I love the point you made about listening. And what was I heard the other day is there are four skills to communication: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. And listening is the only one you don’t get taught in school. It’s kind of like, you don’t really learn. And it’s the one you do the most of. So yeah, it’s a very, very valid point. That’d be really super interesting. Some great points, we covered. I think, there’s a lot more we could discuss maybe. We’ll have to do around to at some point. But just before we wrap up, I’d be really interested to understand. So in terms of the challenges that you’re looking at with your customers at the moment, do you see over the next, say, 12 months...? Obviously, it’s been a crazy time. There’s all sorts of big thing globally going on. What do you see as the kind of key challenges that you expect to be helping your customers with, specifically, over the next 12 months?

Jill Robbins:        46:08   You know, it’s really around getting inside procurements head and making my clients procurement insiders. There are so many people and you’ve experienced it being in this space for 20 years, very, very intelligent business people [are like] what is procurement. Never heard of procurement! And there are sales folks that have sold to organizations, avoided procurement intentionally, because their CRO has told them to do so. Because procurement slows things down. You’re going to give away value. I teach my clients the opposite. If procurement is not brought in early, ask for procurement to be brought in. Because they are a wealth of information. So don’t make procurement the enemy. They really can be your biggest ally. Like I said, doing your homework is hyper critical. Then you build credibility. Once you do have that conversation, whether it’s with a business stakeholder, whether it’s with procurement, they’ll say, “Hey, they really do understand our business.” And asking those open ended questions, listening, and using storytelling... Talk about the value that you’ve delivered at like-size companies within the same industry. That really goes a long way. Procurement looks for those case studies, for those white papers. So build those. Don’t be verbose about it. They don’t need to be 20 pages long. But really get to the point. And that will go a long way as well. And be flexible and adaptable. Procurement professionals are smart. They can see the big picture. They see across the value chain. They are fierce negotiators. It’s something that they are trained to do. They are not afraid of conflict. But they do want to be collaborative. So work with them, so that they’re not on the defensive, and they are on your side, and you can play offense with procurement and supply chain.

Jonny Dunning:  48:33   Yeah, I think that’s great advice. And ultimately, it comes down to, if you make procurement life easy, it will make your life easy. And you give them what they need. If you genuinely got a useful service or product for the business, they can buy it in the right way, and it can deliver the value and they’re confident that you’re going to do a good job. They’re happy because they’re doing their job.

Jill Robbins:        48:56   Yep. And as you know, I mean, it’s a very small community. I mean, there are a lot of us around the world. But we are very well networked. There are collaborative workspaces. And procurement folks are not afraid to share pricing information, performance information, what someone else has done, [or] how they’re performing. So keep that in mind. Outperform your peers, so that you have a leg up, when a topic of conversation comes up. And you can save money on marketing, because word of mouth is so much more powerful, and it’s free. 

Jonny Dunning:  49:40   Exactly. On any kind of bad feedback, people remember it. 

Jill Robbins:        49:45   Yes, they do. And they’re not afraid to share it either.

Jonny Dunning:  49:50   Excellent stuff. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. I’ve really enjoyed that conversation. And it’s definitely triggered off a few thought processes in it, for me as well, some of your feedback. And I’m sure people will find that very useful. We really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for joining me. And [it is] morning, I’m assuming in Indianapolis, whereas it’s afternoon in the UK. So I hope you have a really good rest of the day.

Jill Robbins:        50:14   Yes. Thank you. You as well. Take care of all those animals. 

Jonny Dunning:  50:18   Yeah, will do. Take care of yourself. Catch up with [Inaudible 50:20]. 

Jill Robbins:        50:21   Okay, thank you. 

Jonny Dunning:  50:22   Bye 

Jill Robbins:        50:23   bye.


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