In today’s Commitment Matters post (The Purpose Of Negotiation) Tim Cummins opens with the statement that “Many of us use the term ‘negotiating’ in a generic form, giving little thought to the variations in approach that are demanded by different circumstances.”
In this succinct and seemingly simple statement Tim sums up the basis for the monumental shift that is taking place within the procurement world, and in particular public sector purchasing. It also emphasizes the inherent importance and value of the two books about which I wrote here in this blog yesterday by Judy Bradt and Mark Amtower.
Bradt, whose book is titled Government Contracts Made Easier, and who over her 20 year career has helped more than 6,000 clients win government contracts in excess of $300 million US, has frequently discussed the importance of legitimately and transparently winning government buyer preference. To do this however, one has to build the pre-requisite relationships commensurate with the “know, like and trust” edict that truly does influence purchasing decisions – especially when said acquisitions are both costly and complex.
Following a different yet complimentary track, Mark Amtower’s Selling To The Government book offers further evidence of the importance of the relationship aspect of selling to the government and how utilizing new resources such as social media can help to facilitate quicker penetration.
Of course, and following the know, like and trust line of thinking I have always adhered to the Cummins perspective relative to degrees in which relationships play an important role in public (and yes even private) sector procurement.
Using everyday life analogies, if I am simply buying a carton of milk from the corner store, beyond wanting to make certain that the milk is fresh I do not have to like or for that matter even know the person behind the counter.
Conversely, if your taxes are being audited by the government are you more inclined to deal with an accountant you know well, or are you going to randomly scan through the yellow pages?
Think about it logically for a moment . . . the larger the expenditure, the greater the perceived risk and desire to succeed (or avoid failure). In a situation like this with whom are you more likely to do business? A known and proven entity by way of the relationships you have established over your lengthy career or, the new supplier with whom by comparison, there has been little if any meaningful contact beyond the RFP exercise itself?
Understanding and developing a solid strategy based on the above reality is where the Bradt and Amtower books come into play, especially given the fact that it takes 18 to 24 months (and in some cases longer) for the average supplier to win their first contract.
Based upon recent announcements along the lines of the UK government’s Francis Maude, in which the public sector is moving away from the big vendor consolidated contract mindset towards actively engaging and utilizing SME vendors, the message is becoming abundantly clear . . . the relationship factor has become even more critical.
The only questions that need to be answered are simply this . . . from a public sector procurement standpoint (an area upon which this post is primarily focused), are governments equipped to effectively reach out and engage SME suppliers and, is the supplier community as a whole in a position to properly respond?