It was great to see the list of winners of APMP's "40 under 40" awards this week - recognising some of the most talented younger people in our profession (and making me feel old in the process!). Particularly, I was delighted that our very own Kim Panesar - graphic design manager for Strategic Proposals in the UK - made the list. Much deserved!
So too did other friends, including several people I've had the pleasure of training and supporting over the years. And it made me stop and think about the two most powerful coaching interventions I had in the early days of my own career.
The first came from a negotiation guru, back in my procurement days at Barclays Bank. All of the buyers were tasked with preparing a half hour presentation about an upcoming negotiation with a vendor. Mine was packed with the latest and best industry research. I looked at the detail of the current contract. I analysed spend and usage patterns. I reviewed the supplier's performance. I compared their current pricing to external benchmarking data and to deals with other vendors selling into the bank. There were tables, graphs, numbers galore.
I presented. I sat down, happily. And was asked: "What football team does their account manager support?"
To which I confessed: "I have no idea. And, what's more, I have no idea why you asked."
That led to a wonderful discussion about the importance of emotion as well as logic in influencing - and the role of relationships and trust in the buying and selling process. They're messages that have stayed with me throughout my time in bids and proposals.
A week later, the expert was back on site, coaching some of my colleagues. I slipped an envelope underneath the door of the room he was using. Inside: a plain piece of paper, on which was written simply: 'Wycombe Wanderers'!
The other game-changer came a couple of years later. I'd just moved from procurement to proposals, appointed to the management team of one of my erstwhile suppliers to "stop us losing large bids". I arrived on day one, confident and raring to go.
My new boss - the business unit director - greeted me, and apologetically observed: "I'm afraid we don't have a desk for you yet. I suggest you go and camp out in the hot desk area on the sales floor for a couple of weeks.'
Deflated, I headed upstairs to sulk. And proceeded to learn more in the next fortnight of what makes salespeople tick than I could ever have imagined.
It was only a few years later that I realised what he'd done. "Of course we had a desk," he laughed. "But it was the cheapest and best sales training I could think of for someone who'd just swapped sides from procurement."
Two questions, then:
- who do you turn to for ideas and inspiration, and to use as a sounding board?
- have you ever spent a week sitting in your procurement department - never mind sales - observing what buyers are really like?