Digital Procurement: How to Sell Your Team on the Tool You Want

“84% of procurement departments believe digitalization is the next step for their industry.” However, only “32% has created a plan for getting there” according to a recent Hackett Group report

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you want to be part of the 32% that pushes for digital procurement tools. It’s because you’re a trailblazer in your organization. Let's assume you've already found the best procurement software for your business. Now comes the hard part: pitching it to your team and C-suite. 

But don't be intimidated, below are practical tips for convincing your skeptics and tightwads that your tool is worth the investment. 

Appeal to Their Values & Goals 

Digital Procurement_How to Sell Your Team on the Tool You Want_Values

First things first, you need to make sure you’re selling your team on the right thing. That is to say, the right concept. 

Surprisingly, you don’t have to sell your team on digital procurement at all, because as this insightful report put it:

‘CPOs are serious about making 2019 the year they start to implement next-generation technologies to automate administrative tasks. Indeed, respondents identify the digitalisation of procurement processes as their number one investment priority heading into the new year… indicating that procurement chiefs are ready to place emerging technologies at the heart of the function.’

In other words, the right investment priorities are already in place. Digital procurement isn’t the hard sell. So why do only 32% of companies have a game plan? Because the hard sell is convincing everyone of your execution strategy. 

Start by Addressing Their Concerns 

Procurement professionals are notedly risk and loss averse. And psychology research shows when people are avoiding risk, it’s difficult for them to see long-term value.

So your first goal is to address and counteract your stakeholders’ fears. Explain that you know that adopting new software can be an arduous process. You understand that they’re worried it will take too long, be too expensive, and yield too few results. It makes sense that they might be concerned that the new tool won’t deliver as promised. 

Then detail why that won’t happen. For example, you know with this supplier, the average implementation is complete in three weeks or less. You’re only committing to a one-year contract, at X negotiated rate. That with this platform, customers say they save an average of 100 hours a month and see a 200% return on investment. 

By addressing their hesitations, you will prove you’re on the same page and have considered the risks. Doing this validates your audience’s thinking, and encourages them to listen to you. 

Why This? Why Now?

Now that you’ve put your team at ease, your job is to answer two critical questions. First, “why this?” Second, “why now?” If you’ve ever seen a “pitch deck” formula for entrepreneurs, this will sound familiar. 

It’s not enough to inform your stakeholders that this is the digital procurement tool for them. You have to explain why this software is the best. Walk them through your selection process. Describe why this platform offers the best overall value (even if it’s not the cheapest). Tell them how it’s better than the others, and what makes it a perfect fit for your organization. Prove you did a thorough market analysis, read reviews, watched demos, completed a trial, etc.  

Answering the second question explains why it’s needed now. You need to help your stakeholders flip the switch. To stop thinking about what will be lost if they invest in this tool – time, money, etc., and instead think about what will be forfeited if they don’t. 

To be motivated to move forward with a solution, your team has to believe there's a problem. It's especially true when dealing with procurement folks. Research shows “prevention-focused people generally prefer the conservative option when everything is going according to plan, but they will embrace risk when it’s their only shot at returning to status quo.” [Emphasis added.]

So paint a picture of the problem. For example, the fact that your company can’t track invoice redundancies is a significant risk. Or if you don’t have good spend transparency, money will inevitably be wasted. These liabilities are the problem. The right tool is your solution. 

Positioning the message in this way both appeals to your stakeholders’ risk/loss aversion, and it creates a sense of urgency which will improve buy-in.

Sell Benefits, Not Features

Digital Procurement_How to Sell Your Team on the Tool You Want_Benefits.

I recently came across a terrible procurement website. I spent at least ten minutes trying to figure out who this company was and what they did. Their copy was all about how great they were, and their product’s amazing features. The problem was, I didn’t care. 

I didn’t care because I, as a consumer, didn’t exist in that story. My experience with their website was akin to being at a cocktail hour chatting with someone who does nothing but brag. Why should I bother to talk to you when all you care about is yourself? 

Their sell wasn’t compelling because it was feature-focused, not benefit-focused. It described what it did, not why it mattered, or how it would help me. That doesn’t grab my attention or engage my emotions. Eventually, people want to know the nuts and the bolts, but that’s not where you should start. You should always start with a picture of transformation.

For example, you should never start your pitch by saying, “X tool will help digitize, optimize, and improve our sourcing process…” People are so used to marketing hype they’ll just drown it out. Instead, describe the transformation: “before I tried X tool, I had to spend my nights and weekends putting together manual spend analytics reports. Now I get an automated version of that report, and I’m home with my kids by 5 p.m.”

The first explanation sounds like business jargon nonsense. The second, like something that might actually interest me. Always appeal to your audience’s goals and values. Will this tool save them money? Save them time? Will it make them look good to their boss? 

For example, you might say, “imagine if we didn’t have to scramble to prove our savings. Think about how much more respect we’d get if our CEO got a monthly savings report, detailing how much we’d saved.” 

Now your stakeholders are thinking, “Wow. Okay, that sounds like something that would really help me. Tell me more.” In other words, focus on the benefits, not the mechanics. Describe how the new tool will make their lives easier. 

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While following these steps doesn’t guarantee you’ll get to write a software check, it will certainly tip the odds in your favor. Best of luck!

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