Understand What Your Sourcing Stakeholders Want [Video]

How_toSell_Sourcing_Stakeholders__Negotiate_With_NaysayersVideo.jpgWhen was the last time you had a great idea but you just couldn't "sell" your internal stakeholders on it? You gave them all the facts but they still wouldn't buy in? There were tons of great possibilities but all they saw were the obstacles? 

Too often in sourcing, the toughest people to get cooperation from isn't our suppliers, but our own team. 

"...according to procurement professionals [88% agreed], the largest leadership skill gaps lie in being visionary, ability to build a team culture, communication, and openness to change...

"We often forget that a large portion of the work procurement should do is persuade, challenge and influence – for the better of the business. And for that to happen, we need to build confidence to communicate and engage with other parts of the business."

- Recent report from Procurement Leaders [emphasis added.]

So how can procurement get better at communication and persuasion? Simple, ask those who are good at it, for their secrets.   

Which is why Philip Ideson, came to me, a Marketer. He'd liked my What Marketing Knows That Procurement Doesn't blog and asked to interview me on his brilliant podcast Art of Procurement. He said he believed Procurement could learn a lot from people whose whole job is to connect and convince. 

I'm a big fan of the show so I said yes, and both Ideson and I were utterly blown away by the response we received. We had tons of listeners tune in to listen, and the prestigious Procurious even turned a clip of the podcast into an official "class" on their website. 

Apparently, we weren't the only ones dealing with doubters and negotiating with naysayers. 

Why are these cynics so difficult to persuade? Usually it's one of a couple culprits: 

  1. We're more worried about what we want than what our audience wants
  2. For whatever reason, we're not considered credible

Here's how to avoid those pitfalls.   

Forget what you want, focus on what they want

While it's completely understandable and natural to be focused on what you want, your desires and needs will not persuade others. 

So the first step must be understanding what your key stakeholders really want. Below is a quick clip from the podcast explaining the key to identifying their needs. 

Listen to Influence Your Stakeholders -- the Marketing Way Podcast

And if your audience is especially hostile or negative, then your secret weapon is agreeing with them. 

This is the brilliant Rogerian rhetoric approach, which my college English professor described as "I agree with you, I agree with you, I agree with you, I agree with you, but you're wrong."  

You begin by acknowledging and agreeing with their needs and priorities. It takes them off the defensive and proves A. you understand them, and B. you're reasonable. 

The key is to not argue over "hot button" factors like goals, concerns, or priorities, but simply to present a different method of obtaining those same desired outcomes. 

It works beautifully, because it's very difficult to argue with someone telling you you're right. 

Boost your credibility 

You know you're an expert, but does your team?

If your ideas aren't being taken seriously, it may be because your stakeholders aren't giving you the credibility you deserve. And it's not necessarily their fault. 

If you're like me, you work with your head down, nose to the grindstone (especially when you're busy). Meaning, sometimes we're so busy doing the work itself, we're not always communicating the value of what we're doing.
This tunnel vision can make us more productive, but we risk our team not understanding the worth of our work. 

Luckily, it just takes a little intentionality on our part to boost our credibility.

Step #1. Explain why, not just what

Recently, I gave a presentation to some colleagues who were curious about different types of marketing strategies. My boss sat in with them, and I gave them all a detailed explanation of my job. I described my research, goals, and approach. In other words, I told them what I did and why I did it. 

And my boss was shocked.

Despite the fact that we sit right next to each other, he had no idea how thoroughly I'd thought out my strategy, how much research I'd done, or how much logic was behind my plans.

And it was my fault. I'd spent a lot of time explaining what I was doing, but not why I was doing it. He had a good idea of my daily grind, but not how I was impacting our business objectives.  

I learned my lesson. Explaining the "why" behind our actions makes all the difference in our credibility. (See Simon Sinek's excellent TED talk on the power of why.) It's the "why" that distinguishes you as an expert, innovator, or aficionado.

"Why" you do something is essentially your strategy, and strategy is a topic that will quickly get the C-suite's attention.


Step #2. Quantify your success

When you're a Marketer, your whole world revolves around numbers. Email opens, click through rates, leads per week, monthly website visits, and quarterly subscribe rates. 

In other words, your success is quantified and you're taken more seriously when you know your worth.  

Having numbers (even estimates) is a very easy way to build your credibility. The more numeric or statistical you can make your success, the better. 

Ex. "By doing this I saved us % of dollars, time, resources." 

I like to keep a tally of important quarterly metrics as well as the praise of colleagues and clients. When I get great feedback I copy it into my personal "portfolio." 

That way if you're ever challenged about your expertise or arguing for a promotion, you'll have plenty stats and endorsements handy.


Step #3. Seek out thought-leadership

"Thought leadership" can get a bad rep as being a vain waste of time, but whether your goal is networking, career advancement, or just respect, it can open several doors. 

Because regardless of the format (speaking at an industry event, writing an article, participating in a podcast or webinar) these opportunities are a stage.

A place where you can broaden your influence and present your war stories, analysis, lessons learned, and insights. 

Thought leadership is valuable because not only are you providing helpful resources, but you're also highlighting yourself as being experienced and authoritative.

"No prophet is welcome in his hometown" can be very true. Sometimes getting attention from outside your organization is exactly what's needed to get your own team to listen to you. 


Key takeaways

Don't: tell you stakeholders what you want. 

Do: tell them how you're going to help them accomplish their goals. 

assume people just know you're expert. 

Do: seek out relevant ways to publicly demonstrate your prowess. 

Listen to Influence Your Stakeholders -- the Marketing Way Podcast

*Feature image credit: Ryan McGuire