Selling purchasing in the company better - only those who rethink now will be at the top tomorrow

Hardly any other corporate function has changed as drastically in recent years as purchasing. Today, the field of tasks covers a wide range of topics. Global competition, digitalisation and uncertainties in the market place growing demands - purchasing is asked to reduce external expenses, optimise working capital and operate in increasingly scarce and unstable commodity markets. This calls for a structural and image change in procurement departments. | atk work

The goal of purchasing is to significantly increase the performance and value of the company in the long term - this requires a change in thinking. In the meantime, many manufacturers have also realised that something has to change. The professional challenges of a buyer who has successfully gone through the crisis have changed. The incompatibility of price dumping and technical progress has been brought home to us all by spectacular recalls or the emissions scandal in the automotive industry. But where should the journey go? How can purchasing be better sold within the company? What role will purchasing play in the future?

The status quo in purchasing

The classic day in the procurement department of an industrial company usually looks like this: The buyers sit in front of the computer in a shared open-plan office. Half of the time they enter data into the system, the rest of the time they answer e-mails and in between there are usually conflictual meetings. The guidelines from the top limit the scope of action enormously and time and again the purchasing department becomes the scapegoat of the other departments and the superiors when it comes to quality deficiencies. Growing international competition, increased demands, digitalisation - purchasing is under enormous pressure. There is an acute need for action. But where to start and with which strategy? Admittedly, not only purchasing is struggling with these factors, so why start here of all places? Here are a few reasons: Immense stress leads to high fluctuation and a shortage of skilled workers in purchasing departments. With the strain on the buyers, the quality of production decreases and thus the company risks increase. Moreover, a poorly positioned purchasing department is no support for sales. The increased competitive pressure leads to everyone blocking each other instead of pulling together. This path leads to a dead end rather than a successful future.

Building bridges instead of trenches

Especially in industrial companies, buyers often have the feeling that sales are more important. The question of who is more important is one I am often asked in training sessions. My answer to this is that sales works outwards towards the customer - and the customer is usually the most important thing for the company, because it brings in the money. Purchasing acts more in the direction of the supplier, which makes it no less important. I also often observe that sales from within the company puts pressure on purchasing to negotiate better. But assigning blame doesn't get you anywhere. It's like the discussion about egg and hen - who came first: the (over-)demanding sales staff or the deaf buyer? It makes more sense than lamenting to think strategically about what will help the company in such a situation. Here it helps to build bridges: between buyers and suppliers, between purchasing and sales.

The action plan for the future

Those who still think like yesterday are running behind. In order to make purchasing fit for all current and, above all, future challenges, structural, strategic changes are necessary. An analysis of the current situation provides a good basis for this, but it must also be followed by concrete measures. This is possible with an action plan and its consistent implementation. Quick successes are good motivation, but it is important to keep at it and not fall back into habitual patterns. The goal of an action plan is to achieve profound, medium- and long-term improvements that grow over time.

Internally strong - purchasing and sales as a team

For many it sounds unthinkable to bring purchasing and internal sales together. In my training sessions, I like to bring together sales people from within the company in the negotiation delegation. It's exciting to see what happens when you simply talk to the other side in your own company when preparing for negotiations. Those who bring purchasing and sales together will be amazed at the excellent results. Because what the purchasing department can do and knows may bring the sales department a dream margin in the next negotiation. And at the latest, when sales has won the next top deal, no one will want to miss the interaction with the other department.

Rethinking at all levels

For some years now, in my work as a consultant and interim manager in purchasing, I have attached great importance to promoting a willingness to innovate at all levels. Building interdisciplinary teams, promoting the willingness of purchasing and sales to cooperate and linking processes in different departments at an early stage as well as closely networking their managers are all part of such a strategy.

Creating a climate of creativity is necessary to provide a breeding ground for visions and new ideas. Foresight, competence, a sense of responsibility - all of these can be promoted. These values can and must be lived and, above all, exemplified by managers. If all areas in the company are part of the quality, innovation and marketing of the emerging product, then visions can be formulated more courageously - and what is just as important: consistently realised. The buyer, as an active company shaper, is crucial here. Furthermore, a cooperative relationship with suppliers strengthens their willingness to innovate. Motivated suppliers contribute significantly to the success of a product. If suppliers are involved in the development of new innovative solutions as partners, their know-how can tip the scales when it comes to being ahead of the competition.

The buyer of the future - at the top

The first step on the way to the future is to forget about what currently determines everyday life in our purchasing departments and to open up to a new perspective. Away from the scapegoat and towards the success factor. Purchasing is not only about price, but also about quality, technology, service and sustainability - we should always be aware of this. In addition, the buyer of the future will become much more of a manager of his product group, he will take on a lot of personal responsibility, move confidently on the international stage and is thus an all-rounder of a modern industrial company. He becomes an ambassador for his company - and thus a decisive factor for success.

Do you also want to revolutionise your purchasing - to move into a successful future with clarity, structure and new approaches? Then let's talk.