Category Archives: Market Intelligence

Molly Fletcher’s 5 Mistakes Everyone Makes in Negotiations

Yesterday at Jaggaer Rev 2019, the best presentation was the guest keynote speaker. While the vision from Bonavito was interesting, and an overview of the enterprise technology journey to date from Zahiri was illuminating for those who haven’t been in tech for almost three decades, neither were very enlightening with respect to how current and potential customers could do a better job of Procurement right now.

On the other hand, Molly Fletcher’s talk (of the Molly Fletcher Company) really hit home and didn’t overlook the fact that at the end of the day, every strategic engagement will be between people who will put the final touches on a contract that, once signed, will govern a relationship for years to come. Moreover, when you negotiate a good contract, both parties understand up front what the other is looking for — and this usually means that you can literally set and forget the contract until renewal time (but still have confidence and assurance on the off chance something goes wrong).

So what are the mistakes? And how do you overcome them? We’ll get to them. But first, it’s only fair to tell you that we’ll be trying to explain the five mistakes — and corrections — in source-to-pay terms, as opposed to the much more exciting — and real — sports (negotiation) terms that Molly, a sports agent rock star, used. (In other words, her presentation is exciting and engaging … and you really should see it if you get the chance, or, even better, organize it when you get the chance.)

1. Not Knowing Who You Are Negotiating With

Some negotiators think that who you are negotiating with doesn’t matter — it’s all about the negotiation and getting the best deal. And while it can be all about the negotiation and getting the best deal if that’s what both sides want, this is only going to work if both sides are interested in (almost) the (exact) same thing. If both sides only care about the number at the end of the day, it might work. But if one side only cares about the number but the other side cares about the future direction of the organization they are partnering with and how the product, service, or overall relationship is going to improve and grow, then the negotiations aren’t going to go anywhere.

On the other hand, if you know what matters most to the other organization, and what they want at the end of the day, and address that continuously during the negotiation, you have a much better chance at a negotiation that is not only smooth, but truly profitable. If what the other side wants the most is not the most important factor to you, a few concessions on the other party’s wants can lead to more concessions against your wants. If the other side just cares about the price, and you waver a little bit, they might throw in more services or better delivery terms or R&D support.

2. Negotiation is a Transaction

The outcome is a transaction in the form of a contract, but the negotiation itself is not a transaction. The negotiation is a relationship where both parties want to continue the interaction with the goal of coming to an agreement that will see both parties working together for months, to years, to come. If you overlook the relationship, you may never get to the transaction.

3. Getting Offensive

All offensiveness does is cause the other party to become defensive. And defensiveness never results in an open dialogue where the other party is looking for a way to overcome the disconnect between the desired outcomes of both parties and cross whatever perceived impasse has been reached. The solution here is to instead get curious, ask questions about possibilities, or orthogonal opportunities, that will instead get the other party to open up about what they really want or what they might be able to do if they can’t meet your need in a direct fashion.

4. Everything Has to Happen Now

Presuming you are starting a negotiation before you need the product or service, or a contract renewal before the contract ends, you have time — and usually more than you think (even if you have to expedite a shipment). Just because your timeline says you should finish in a week, that doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes the other party just needs time and a little time can make all the difference — and the more strategic the negotiation, sometimes the more time you need. And even if it means you are without an agreement for a month or two, or buying from the spot market, it’s not always the right thing to rush a strategic negotiation. If the negotiation could result in a 5 year long-term deal that is more valuable than any extra costs you’d pay in the short term as a result of a short delay, especially if the supplier or partner could be strategic and bring innovation and value to your organization you could not get otherwise, can often be more than worth it.

5. Not Asking with Confidence

Always ask with confidence. Do your research. Know your facts. Know what you are asking for is reasonable. And then ask with confidence. Not only will you not get what you don’t ask for, but you won’t get what you do ask for if the other party has any sense at all that you expect you might not get it. Be confident … always. (But don’t be foolish. It doesn’t matter how confident you are, you won’t get a price below the supplier’s cost of goods, for example. But it never hurts to challenge the margin.)

7 Sourcing Secrets Everyone Should Know By Now … Part II

… but don’t, because if they did, Source-to-Pay would be ubiquitous across the space.

As we noted yesterday, if you’re a long-time reader of SI, you can skip this post because you already know it all. But if you are a new reader, and haven’t scoured the archives yet, this post is for you — to help get you up to speed fast on what you may not yet have discovered in the extensive archives you can find right here on SI.

Yesterday we covered the first four “secrets” that shouldn’t be secrets anymore. Today we cover the last three.


5. Contract Management is just a new name for document management with integrated monitoring, it’s not a replacement for contract managers — and definitely NOT a replacement for lawyers!

Lately I’ve noticed how contract management is coming into vogue … again. And while that’s a good thing, it’s important to understand what contract management is and isn’t because it seems that some vendors, and some publications, are promoting the new offerings, with automatic clause identification and suggestion, as the latest and greatest tools to solve all your contract woes when the reality is that these tools are nothing more than document management tools with monitors, alerts, and contract templates that can swap out versions of a clause based on industry, geography, spend level, and identified risk.

We won’t deny the importance of having a good contract management tool that can monitor expiration dates, contract pricing, and, most importantly, invoiced pricing against contracted rates, but these tools, even if they contain sophisticated contract creation and clause identification capabilities, can’t replace a contract expert, a master negotiator, a trained legal professional, or a good spend analysis tool that can uncover devious work-arounds by less-than-reputable vendors looking for a way to make back that buck they gave up in negotiations. (For example, we still hear from consultants to this day who tell us how, ten years later, they find that some office supply management vendors still regularly changed SKUs to bill you twice as much for that pen as it’s really worth — as most of their customers still haven’t caught on.)


6. e-Procurement is tactical, and not a substitute for e-Sourcing

There’s still a lot of confusion in the marketplace between what is e-Procurement (and how it relates to I2P, P2P, EIPP, and the other new acronyms old players are coining to differentiate their new, streamlined, offering) and what is e-Sourcing, even though it should be fairly clear cut (as the doctor outlined over a decade ago in this post on why it’s sourcing and procurement). A few of the e-Procurement vendors are even claiming that you don’t need sourcing at all if you use the wisdom of crowds (which is not the case because there’s a big difference between a great deal on a commodity office supply and a great deal on raw cocoa or custom circuit boards, which are not commodities), market intelligence, and automation. Sourcing is the strategic part of the purchasing cycle, procurement is the tactical. You need both, and one is not a substitute for the other.


7. It’s not what you know, it’s what you can learn!

Plain and simple,

  • it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it that way for 20 years if it’s not optimal,
  • shift happens, and
  • whatever happens, the world of tomorrow will not be the world of today.

You have to keep learning. That’s why this blog is here to help you.

7 Sourcing Secrets Everyone Should Know By Now … Part I

… but don’t, because if they did, Source-to-Pay would be ubiquitous across the space.

If you’re a long-time reader of SI, you can skip these posts because you already know it all. But if you are a new reader, and haven’t scoured the archives yet, these posts are for you.

Even though most of the time the doctor gets to interact with people who’ve been there, done that, probably failed because they were using an older, insufficient, product, sometimes someone comes along who’s never really had real tech in one or more areas and the obvious is new. And since new readers still stumble on SI, it’s important to get them up to speed … fast. So, here goes — because you really really really should know the following “secrets” that, after more than a decade, should not be secrets anymore.


1. e-RFX is electronic support for the full information and quote gathering cycle, not just bid collection

If all your e-RFX does is allow you to collect bids, it’s not e-RFX. It’s e-RFQ, and a poor e-RFQ at that. It should allow you to create questionnaires, surveys, and entire RFX packages with closed and open-ended questions, allow you to compare responses side by side, and allow you to collect not only all of the pricing, but all of the discounts, rebates, and promotions the supplier offers. It should help you manage the process, guide you through it, engage with your entire team, and support data import and export in open formats so that you can also use analysis, optimization, and contract management tools.


2. A Reverse Auction is simply an online auction event, it’s not a substitute for proper sourcing project management

We follow the space closely and not a month goes by where we don’t see an article on how Company XYZ is now refusing to participate in online auctions or company ABC no longer wants to use them because they got poor results or inflated costs after the award. When you dig down, this is because the supplier had a horrible experience or the buyer didn’t properly qualify the supplier or the product/service requirements. When you dig deeper still, you find out it is typically either because Company ABC simply threw an auction tool at the supplier and told they had to bid through the tool or lose all their business or Company ABC threw up an auction tool and said they’d award to the lowest bidder and either bought a product that wasn’t qualified to meet their needs or ended up ignoring the auction result and going with a different supplier, usually the incumbent, after the auction closed.

We find this appalling, because e-Auctions, like e-RFX, are not only a great time saver, but a great way to bring parties together from around the globe and allow them to participate in an e-Sourcing event that, when run right, is more transparent, educational, and profitable for all parties concerned than traditional methods of sourcing where you get bids by phone and fax until you find three bids you like and then meet in a room to “negotiate” until a deal is struck with a winner – especially for a commodity, low-dollar, and/or non-strategic category. (And we use the term “negotiate” loosely because old style purchasing methods usually boil down to the party with the most leverage beating up the party with the least leverage.) But this is only true if the event is run right. This takes proper project planning and management. Tools can facilitate the process, but they can’t replace it.


3. (Strategic Sourcing) Decision Optimization is for everyone, not just for math geeks!

We’ll admit this is the doctor‘s personal bandwagon, but having seen savings of over 40% and ROIs of over 400 on a number of projects, and average savings in the 10% to 20% range and average ROIs of 5X to 10X or more, the doctor knows he has a good reason for riding it. Despite the fact that true self-service decision optimization for sourcing has now been around for almost two decades, it’s still the “black sheep” that almost no one uses — and it’s a real shame because now is the time you need it most. Furthermore, the new tools coming out of the leading providers are not only a lot more usable than the first generation tools, but they are also more usable then second generation tools, and can be easily used not only by an college graduate who can build a cost model and specify some business constraints but by any high-school drop-out that can follow a workflow (as they allow the college graduates to build category and event specific templates that anyone can easily follow). In other words, if you have the pre-requisites for strategic sourcing, you can use these tools to save time, to save money, and make better, more informed, decisions.


4. Spend Analysis is flexible Data Analysis, not canned reports on a data warehouse populated via automated classification

Real spend analysis is the ability to dive into your data and find out not just where your true spend is higher than it should be, but why. This requires you to have the ability to slice, dice, and cube your data on any dimension you can think of, because you’re never going to know where the losses are until you find them. (After all, if you knew where your holes were, wouldn’t you have plugged them already?) Canned reports on a static data warehouse can only tell you how fixes you’ve already implemented are working, not where the holes are. Furthermore, “automated classification” (which is not the same as automatic classification rule suggestion) just doesn’t work. Any good consultant worth his salt can load your data into a real data analysis product and find two dozen mistakes in twelve minutes. You need the ability to define and redefine mapping rules on the fly as all automated classification can do is fix previously identified mistakes. It can’t identify new ones. Software isn’t intelligent (despite all the voodoo claims out there). People are (at least until we blindly trust the machine).

Come back tomorrow for Part II!

You Wouldn’t Let Your Banker Pick Out Your Job …

So why do you let a systems implementor / integrator choose your Sourcing / Procurement system???

And while you might initially believe that this simile is far-fetched, the reality is that it’s very close to home. While a banker is the right partner to help you manage your money, he or she is probably the worst person to figure out the right job for you given that he or she doesn’t really know you. Similarly, while you’re preferred implementation / integration partner is probably the best company out there to implement the platform that will control the majority of your organizational spending, chances are that partner has no knowledge of the true breadth of your Procurement processes work and no clue what the right kind of system for the organization would be. And as a result, just like a banker might steer you towards a job you’d fail miserably at (and lose, leaving you without a pay cheque), an implementor / integrator might steer you towards a system that will not work at all for your organization, and cost your organization millions in the process.

Furthermore, this is also true for any consultancy that has partnerships with a select group of source-to-pay vendors. In fact, taking advice from any of the consultancies that have partnerships with a select group of source-to-pay vendors is MORE risky than an implementation partner without any relationships. Why? Because these consultancies, by way of their partnerships, tend to ONLY recommend their partners because:

  1. that’s all they tend to implement, and know, and
  2. their partnerships provide them with referral fees, guaranteed services, and / or higher margins (and the senior partners at these consultancies mandate that these options are always recommended)

So, if your preferred consulting partner only has relationships with platforms that are primarily for indirect S2P, but your organization is primarily direct S2P, your organization’s chances of getting a good recommendation are zero. That’s right. Zero! (Even worse than a generic systems implementor with no knowledge of the space doing a Google search, coming up with five vendors, and making a random recommendation — at least then you have a 20% chance of getting a good recommendation!)

In other words, if you want a good recommendation, you have to ask a neutral third party, like an analyst firm, a niche consultancy which does not do implementations (and has no partnerships), or a consultancy that uses third party evaluations to provide you with the best recommendations it can, leaving aside any partnerships the consultancy might have. (For example, such a consultancy could license Spend Matters Customer Maps, which are Solution Maps with custom personas defined specific to the client needs, to help your organization identify the best fits and then help your organization with the RFIs to identify the best-of-the-best).

Otherwise, the doctor can pretty much guarantee you’re always going to be recommended vendors A and B (and maybe C) in North America and vendors X and Y (and maybe Z) in Europe … even though there are 8 S2P platforms and dozens of best-of-breed solution providers that might be right for you (as Solution Map ranks over 50 and plans to add many more over time). [Not that A, B, C, X, Y, and Z aren’t good in the right situation — but in S2P, one-size does not fit all — especially when you consider direct vs indirect, product vs service, head vs tail spend, strategic process requirements, optimization and analytics needs, automation, etc. — and the fact that some providers never get recommended even though for certain industries they are usually the best choice.]

So again, unless you want a quick way to triple your losses, don’t let an implementor choose your S2P platform. You choose it, and as per a recent piece of the doctor‘s over on Spend Matters, you take what you want!

Synertrade: Looking Forward to Powering Inter-Planetary Supply Management

the doctor thoroughly enjoyed the theme of last week’s Synertrade Digital Procurement Summit, which was the “Mars Age of Procurement”. Not just because it was forward thinking, but because a vendor finally proved to SI that at least some of their staff have truly been following the doctor‘s writings for years (including the writings here on SI).

Long time readers will recall that back in 2013 SI asked Why Aren’t We on Mars Yet? because General Dynamics promised us a manned mission to mars in 1975 back in 1963 and almost 40 years had passed since the promise and a mission to mars still looked to be decades out. And it wasn’t just interest in the space race that prompted this — it was knowing that this would force us to look ahead to the next generation of Supply Management challenges (and start thinking about truly next generation solutions to address them).

Simply put, it’s one thing to source everything needed to build and equip a shuttle for an International Space Station (ISS) mission, another to build and equip a craft for a mission that could easily span half a decade, and another challenge yet to manage the reverse transport of recyclable products and any raw materials we may be able to mine from Mars. So, as you can imagine, seeing a conference embrace a theme around the “Mars Age of Procurement”, even if only metaphorical, is very satisfying as it means the vendor knows that supply management challenges are always going to increase in complexity as our goals and needs evolve, that a company needs to take a long term vision in order to adapt and succeed, and that they understood the hidden metaphor the doctor put forward all those years ago.

Especially since times have changed in the six years since the article was penned. Now that the space race has become the chosen pet project of the tech billionaires, we are being told that we could see a mission to Mars by as early as 2038, which, while over sixty years late according to the General Dynamics timeline, is less than two decades in the future and gives us hope that we may yet again try to explore beyond the planet.

And this is another reason SI is very satisfied with the conference theme! The mere fact that an IT company, which has already survived for two decades as a stand-alone player with a single code base that has never grown by acquisition, wishes to be around as a stand-alone company in twenty years is truly admirable. We are in an industry where most companies want to see how fast they can get acquired or merged with another company at an investment multiple that makes the investors and founders rich; an industry that has already become the new “hot” landscape for Private Equity (PE) firms looking to roll-up, take public, or flip as many companies as they can in the Source-to-Pay (S2P) space now that it has three stand-alone Unicorns (valued at over 1 Billion); and an industry that creates solutions required by every single mid-size or larger company in the world. (All successful growing companies buy and sell — that’s just how business works.) When you consider all that, the fact that Synertrade is one of the few platforms that has deep support for direct (materials) and optimization, it’s leadership rankings from multiple analyst firms (including Spend Matter’s Source-to-Pay Solution Maps), and the fact that Synertrade, especially over the past few years, has grown to be a dominant player in the Source-to-Pay space (especially in Europe) that has been increasing it’s customer base by over 15% year-over-year and it’s revenue by about 30% year-over-year for the last four years, this is very notable.

And yes, the event was very well done. For more insight into the event, SI is directing you to the doctor’s pieces over on Spend Matters which talk about some of the key insights brought forward.