Procurement is usually a business area that is overlooked in the marketing process or many people find intimidating, so in this month’s webinar we wanted to dispel all the myths around procurement and learn how we can engage with procurement professionals before the RFP process even begins.
This session covered:
Pat Durai, Group Head of Procurement at Sky, began the conversation by reminding the audience that those who work in procurement “are people too” and that procurement aren’t just there to say ‘no’ but instead want to work with the best and protect their costings at the same time. Pat then went on to explain that relationships are so important in procurement, “we should have good relationships with lots of different agencies, business, and suppliers because part of our role is knowing what’s new in the market” and “good engagement with procurement means you’ll have more interesting conversations outside of the RFP process.”
Katie Street, Founder of Street, also shared that in the past that procurement “felt very much financially driven and didn’t always feel like it was about value” and now “procurement has become such an important audience but one that is often forgotten about.” Katie then went on to share an example from a previous role of how building a strong relationship with procurement has paid off, “we got on the roster at Cancer Research, then the person in charge of procurement went somewhere else and took us there because she knew our agency by that point, she knew me and trusted me.”
Mike Lander, Owner of Piscari added that it’s not just about including procurement professionals in your marketing outreach but actually engaging them with useful content is a “genuine way to get on their radar”, and if you are not in an RFP process with them, procurement are more than happy to meet and have an open conversation.
Kevin Gibbons, CEO at Re:signal, added then suggested the most successful RFP processes have come from when the procurement team are already really familiar with the agency and have reached out because “they might have seen someone speak at an event, they might have read a thought-leadership piece, they might have seen we’ve won an award, or they have been a previous client that has moved somewhere else.”
It’s easy to pursue every opportunity but Kevin explained how he’s used past unsuccessful processes as learnings going forward, “we’ve taken our learnings and understood what worked for us and what hasn’t” and now if the brief is broad and a large number of agencies have been invited to the RFP process he “pulls out because we feel like it’s not actually a good fit.” Kevin has also created a qualification checklist now because pitching big RFPs are an investment, and he wants to “pitch to win and make sure the right odds are in our favor.”
Katie then emphasised that an important part of the procurement journey is to “ask these kinds of questions early doors and make sure you are qualifying out early” and shared her own personal experience of being discounted from the process because of procurement’s criteria and that she would never have been in with a chance, so it would have been better to qualify that opportunity out.
Pat agreed that “qualification of an opportunity is really important” and “understanding how well you could pitch something and asking those questions because you will have to jump through hoops with procurement at some point” so you need to be prepared.
Pat began the discussion on diversity and inclusion by sharing that many big brands are now questioning their policies and asking more questions like “are we open to smaller agencies or agencies that have historically not been given opportunities? Are we being fair to women and minority-owned businesses?” Sky themselves are really focusing on how they can engage with smaller, underserved businesses and create supplier diversity as a whole.
Katie expanded on D&I by sharing her excitement for the importance of company culture in the procurement process, and that “it’s more than just a tick box” because “big companies like Sky need to be seen to be working with a diverse group of suppliers” from environmental initiatives to female-led businesses. “I actually think it’s really, really important.”
Ghosting is a common fear when dealing with procurement but Pat reassured that if you are being ‘ghosted’ in the RFP process there is usually a timeline and there will also be a deadline, “they will not talk to you before that because the reason you’ve been given a timeline is, there are lots of discussions happening internally”, but she also does understand that once you’ve put a lot of work into a pitch and don’t hear anything it can be anxiety-inducing. If the deadline has been missed, it’s okay to chase up and check in on the process. Procurement teams are very busy with a lot of processes and people involved, so remember “procurement are people too” and procurement is “not like Tinder!”
Katie then followed this up by saying “when there’s a process in place, you’re going to know when you’re going to know” and to “stick to those timelines you are given because no one is trying to ghost you.”
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