The Top Three V: Learning to Communicate

As indicated in my last post, here is Kevin Brooks contribution to the Top Three. He takes a different spin, focussed on internal communication, but it is valuable insight nonetheless.

3 Ways To Get Buy-In

As a marketing guy, you’re required to be something of a corporate voyeur in
order to put your finger on the real pain facing your customers. In darkened
rooms, behind one-way glass partitions, I’ve watched focus group after focus
group of procurement executives complain about how they can’t get buy-in
from their organizations. “We communicate all the time, but it doesn’t seem
to make any difference!” I recall one harried CPO of a multi-billion dollar
company telling his nodding colleagues around the table.

While I’m sure every corporate function shares this perspective from time to
time, procurement teams seem uniquely saddled with difficulties making
themselves understood to their organizations. So, in the spirit of this
blogathon, I’d like to offer three rules that can help the struggling
procurement executive communicate more effectively.

Rule #1: Listen To Your Audience

You may think you’re simply putting out information, but your audience views
things differently. The best communications start with listening, and an
understanding that you’re always engaged in a dialogue – not a monologue —
with your audience.

There are formal and informal ways of listening to your audience. The
easiest is to simply talk with them. How do people like to receive
information? What format is best for them – email, snail mail, voicemail,
instant messaging, carrier pigeon? What makes them read or listen to
something now versus saving it for later? What kinds of messages do they
ignore completely? Why?

Do this regularly, and make adjustments to your approach based on what you
hear. Basically, just give your audience the same attention you’d give an
important supplier, and the simple fact that you took the time to ask them
their opinions will cause your next email or presentation to be “heard”
louder and clearer.

Rule #2: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

It would seem logical to put out information that builds on what you’ve said
before. If last week you talked about the new travel spend policy, there’s
no need to rehash that old news when you want to let people know about the
new p-cards, right? Wrong.

It has been said that on average it takes people 6-9 times to receive
information before they “get” it. One email, or a single team presentation
won’t cut it. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Even when you’re sick to death of
telling people about the travel spend policy, grit your teeth and keep
mentioning it. It takes discipline, sure, but if you want to get a message
across, this is how you do it. There are no shortcuts.

Rule #3: Keep It Simple

This rule is tough, especially if your organization is filled with
detail-oriented gurus from the Pierre Mitchell school of PowerPoint. And, to
give them their due, complexity surrounds us in the business world and you
would think people could deal with a few extra bullet points or paragraphs
here and there.

Sorry, but they can’t. Your audience isn’t illiterate, but they are busy and
distracted professionals. If you can’t make your point efficiently, they
tune out. It is far better to get one message across clearly, than to get 10
messages across muddled.

Keep things simple by limiting your message to one idea per communication.
And remember: shorter is always better.


So there you have it. Three simple rules that can improve your
communications and help you gain buy-in for procurement across the

  1. Know Your Audience
  2. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
  3. Less Is More

Good luck!

P.S. Jon Miller’s post on Lean Sourcing: The Top Three is up now as well!