For most, influencing externally comes easily. But when you have to influence internally, there is a mountain of factors and intricacies to navigate…
This article was based on research conducted by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specializes in Negotiation & Influencing training.
Seven procurement experts share their advice on how they creatively influence their internal stakeholders to come to agreements and a consensus for any different challenges they or the company faces.
1. Matching their requirements
Carefully! The ability to influence internal stakeholders is about knowing what is important to them and finding a solution that matches their requirements. If you do not know their goals,objectives or challenges, how can you know whether your idea will help or hinder them? Spend time with the key internal stakeholders, determine what their priorities are, look at your needs and understand how you can help your stakeholder.
2. Be proactive: point out the things most important to them
We influence stakeholders by tailoring the message to them and pointing out the things that are most important for that individual stakeholder. While preparing for a large negotiation we had to have senior executive’s approval of our strategy. The decks we prepared for these meetings were all different, but all came to the same conclusion (i.e. our strategy). This approach worked beautifully as we were able to show each senior executive that our strategy would match exactly with his goals.
3. Pinpoint you ‘must-wins’
By knowing what’s their purpose and what is a must win. R&D departments are not truly impressed or motivated by good economic deals! However, a company’s reputation and innovation are definitely buzz words for them. To keep them on your side of the table and prevent them shaking hands with suppliers before procurement does, it’s important to anchor them on their principles and gain their trust to act freely and move ahead with suppliers.
4. Create opportunities to emphasise your decision-making powers
This is different to “asking what they want” or “receiving instructions” from the business. The greatest success I had was the formation of a “Procurement Steering Committee” where I, as CPO, was the secretary and ran the agenda. It was chaired by the CEO, with the COO and CFO in attendance. These were contracted signatories to deals so it was my opportunity to put forward the deals and proposals I would place with the market, to test their risk appetite and proposed BATNAs in exchange for commercial (and price) advantages. The meeting encouraged healthy debates and discussions and it got the senior leadership team involved in the contracts themselves, aligning with their expectations. It also had the advantage of delegating myself certain decision-making powers in order to secure deals on what was agreed. The process was sped up and it circumvented multitudes of stakeholders with differing views. It helped focus on the “important”, and not the “nice haves”.
Alan Hustwick, Senior Executive Global Supply Chain, SCCR Pty Ltd
5. Find common interests
It is always tempting to try to convince internal stakeholders about the strategic importance of procurement, as we are so convinced about it. We like to convey our passion and vision. Also, and more often than don’t, the naïve belief that the internal stakeholder will share the same passion. Seldom do they!
The best way to convince internal stakeholders is to identify common interests. Certainly, this means that we need to know what their challenges and issues are, and how we can help them best. If they are convinced that there is something for them in the story, then and only then, will they start to listen to your ideas, and getting their support becomes much easier.
6. Confirm your reasoning with 3rd party information
Typically with objective facts. More often than not, 3rd party confirmation of your analysis is needed, for example, these may come in the form of outside analysts or consultancy organizations. Strangely, internal stakeholders often give more weight to outside opinions than colleagues, especially from other functions. They assume there are inter-departmental politics instead of seeing the cross-functional benefits and expertise of the whole company. I frequently refer to or copy and paste graphics or statistics from outside analysts when influencing others.
7. Speak their language and incorporate their needs into your communication
A good starting point is to look at the deal from their perspective and understand how I could get them to choose in their own interest what I want. Talking their own language also helps and this applies to all Procurement communications. I remember a mistake I made over ten years ago. We had just completed a Temporary Labour project and proudly presented the results, mentioning that we had delivered 2.4 million of cost savings, streamlined the process and improved the service levels. It would have been much better to put the focus on the process and service levels improvements and then mention that we also saved 2.4 million.
Do you have ways to influence your internal stakeholders? If so, share in the comments below!
These answers were collected by Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner of Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a consulting firm that specialises in negotiation & influencing. This article is part of a series aimed at collecting real-life negotiation experiences from Procurement executives.