Make your internal clients trust you with their consulting needs.
Most procurement executives go out of their way to support their business lines. They scratch their heads to reconcile their internal clients’ needs and the increased pressure on savings and productivity.
Make your internal clients trust you with their consulting needs.
The function is going through fundamental changes: shifting from tactical to strategic, from savings to value creation, often amid a digital transformation. The current pandemic is just the last straw.
“Trust is like the air we breathe–when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.”- Warren Buffet
Yet, in many companies, the business lines continue to avoid working with them when sourcing consultants. Or when they involve them in the process, it is often at the negotiation phase, when the impact procurement can bring is minimal.
Making mistakes is human. Most cultures will penalize you for errors, promoting the myth, “Always doing right the first time.” You can take the tips we give you in this article as food for thought to implement demand management for the consulting category.
Why are procurement executives sidelined when dealing with consulting services? It is an easy answer: TRUST.
Consulting is a human-to-human service. The trust factor is core to both the selling and the buying side. The only way to be involved at the early stage of the process is to build trust with both your internal clients and your consulting providers.
So how do you do that?
1. Know your supply market inside out –
How many consulting firms serving your industry can you name? We all acknowledge that having a good grasp of the supply market is critical to get the best sourcing outcomes.
The consulting market is extremely diverse and complex. Consulting firms are not commodities that can be swapped without impacting the quality or the price of a project.
- Understand how consulting is structured
When you look at a consulting provider, you need to understand what they do (capabilities), who they work with (clients), and what experience they have (industries served).
Many dimensions can impact how consultants do their work and what value they can bring.
- Size and Geographic footprint
- Ownership structure
- Profile of Partners
- Delivery Model
Each of the dimensions will influence the type of projects a consulting firm can take and how they will deliver the results.
- Research consulting firms within your industry
You should start with internal sources such as your existing list of preferred providers and your network/colleagues that have worked previously with Consultants. Of course, you will also find many sources online, such as Conavigo.com, a reference platform of consulting firms that organizes them per region, capability, and industry served.
Another interesting research source is thought leadership, in particular, articles and books written on the field you are interested in. Don’t hesitate to use several sources to find new players. Understanding your options can cause you to explore innovative solutions and get the most of your consulting.
- Get a grasp of the economics
Consultants are selling their time, or more precisely, the access to expert knowledge and execution workforce during a certain period of time. The potential of production of a Consulting is the amount of time available for billing. Every day not billed is lost just like an empty airplane seat. So the fee structure is usually geared to optimize the utilization rates.
Understanding the different fee structures and the elements that impact a project price will help you during the scoping and the negotiations phase.
2. Build the trust –
Collaboration and trust are the cornerstones of consulting success. In order to squeeze yourself into the relationship between clients and consultants, you need to develop relationships with both sides.
- Listen to your business lines to understand their needs
Working efficiently with business lines when sourcing consultants requires anticipation and reactivity. Indeed when they need a consulting provider, they usually want it for yesterday. Unless you have a list of potential candidates at hand, they will just move forward without waiting for you.
Some companies have strong-armed their business lines and force them to slow down to match their procurement teams’ pace. The results are often disastrous in terms of quality and timing, and the business lines, frustrated, find ways to work around the stringent policies.
Most of the needs of your internal clients are recurrent or predictable. You can start identifying and qualifying potential providers way before your colleagues will need them.
- Get to know your providers
As surprising as it may sound, identifying a Consulting Firm with the right expertise only gets you half-way there. Each consultancy has a portfolio of projects where they excel. As a procurement executive, you need to know their sweet spot to ensure you have all your needs covered with only the best.
The intimacy between a Consulting Firm and its clients can facilitate and accelerate projects. Developing relationships with consulting providers will help them better understand your business, culture, and values. They will become “plug-and-play” for your internal clients.
3. Start taking baby steps –
But we all know that, in most cases, change doesn’t happen overnight. The strength of your conviction and your innovative ideas won’t be enough alone to influence the ways your company buys consulting services.
- Find an ally.
There must be, among your internal clients, an influential leader open-minded and interested in new methodologies. Convince him to try something and invite new players to a consulting bid.
- Do your homework.
Research thoroughly new consulting firms with impressive expertise that fits the project you are sourcing. Ask for references and check them.
- Build your case for change
When you have finished your sourcing, analyze the results & ask for feedback. How much did the company save? What did the internal clients think about the process? If they were in your shoes, what would they do differently?
When you have enough data, you can go and see your manager pitch your idea and plead for a larger pilot: work with more business lines on a given perimeter.
Soon your knowledge of consulting and your results will speak for themselves. It might be tempting to take on all the projects, but that will soon be counterproductive. Instead, package what you have learned and teach your colleagues how to source their projects. You can then focus on finding new players and sourcing large and strategic projects.
Consulting sourcing tips
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Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform and author of “Smart Consulting Sourcing”, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your consulting. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting.