Over the past decade or so, we have witnessed more and more of our clients bemoaning the commoditization of their business – their complex goods and professional services reduced from highly nuanced, value-added client relationships to little more than upfront cost and concessions presented to purchasing professionals who were buying toilet paper yesterday and will be buying office chairs tomorrow. Between, of course, “purchasing” accounting software and building controls. We offered wise words and a shoulder to cry on, but little else other than observing as this trend expanded from major global entities to solid proliferation at even medium sized national companies. Well, newsflash. It has not stopped there. In a recent article, it has been observed that purchasing of even mainstream professions, such as IT, advertising, legal services, accounting and PR, are now going under the purchasing professionals bailiwick.
“But we really can’t be categorized so easily,” you say. “We are all about industry knowledge and experience. We provide a complex service, purchasing would never understand what we do. No one has our industry contacts. We’re specialists. We just don’t fit an RFP mold….”
Well, think again. In fact, entire procurement professional meetings, retreats, seminars and even trade shows are being devoted to the purchase of professional services. Spend any time at all with procurement professionals, and you will soon realize that professional services are seen as a gold mine – full of opportunity to control cost and quality while at the same time full of risk of the unknown and the unfamiliar. Fellow professionals, welcome to the supply chain….
So what’s the best tactic for those of us being “requested to propose” provision of our services to a large corporation via their purchasing group? It’s actually quite simple.
Start with a rate card, and keep it current. Ensure that your list of services is comprehensive and up-to-date. If you are a private company, make sure you have current financial statements, or other acceptable evidence of financial stability. Don’t worry about the nuance, because it doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll need to foster a relationship with the ultimate user of your services, but the important thing during procurement is to meet all the purchasing criteria. Stop presenting as an attorney and present as a roll of toilet paper, the most functional, cost-effective toilet paper the purchasing department has ever seen. The fact that corporate counsel has gone apoplectic waiting for purchasing to approve your appointment will make the eventual assignment all the sweeter. Because the funny thing is, they don’t like it any more than you do.