Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

There is no such thing as a ‘corporate’ buyer

For me and probably many of you, one of the key changes that I’ve experienced in the last few years has been the growth in stature and importance of the procurement function. From a situation many years ago where these were a source of information and administration around suppliers, their influence these days is significantly greater…typically helping organisations deal with the ‘tail’ of their suppliers more efficiently and through a cohesive sourcing strategy and infrastructure, helping through a single point of contact to negotiate on better terms and strike more meaningful supplier / customer relationships.

And yet despite these admirable and totally understandable ambitions, in my experience, it is still individuals who buy and not corporates. In fact, increasingly in the area of management consulting, the process of buying help and advice from an external party is becoming more individual not less….the response for example around large project management opportunities is more and more focused on the individual consultants that the firm is going to provide and less and less around the methodology / trackrecord and corporate history. Unless the buyer is comfortable with the individual who will be delivering the work, they will not go ahead.

When those individuals buy, what criteria do they use? What are the things that they’re looking for? How do they make a informed judgement on the right provider? Does the RFP / RFI process help or hinder this process? Importantly, do they use a different set of priorities than they might use in their private lives? And if so, how do they do that?

I don’t recognise the latter in the actions of my clients….instead, what I see is a buying behaviour that is occasionally politically driven where decisions are made based on some internal dimensions which the consultants are not privy to, but mostly based on some very personal instinctive behaviour which is been tried, tested and proven over many years. The exam question to answer is ‘does this individual or consultancy give me confidence that they can solve my problem? If that is not a personal decision making criteria, I’ve not seen one.

And all the usual decision making processes which we make in our daily lives come into play. Do I trust this person / this solution? Does he / it provide me with some new ideas but not challenge my existence? Can I cope with having this person around for the length of the project? Will his / her engagement reflect well on me?

In my experience, when I forget the individual, it’s not good for my prospects of winning the work! And if I’m fortunate enough to win despite having forgotten the individual, there is some work to do to re-establish that critical personal connection.

Categories: Consulting, human behaviour

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