A Simple Formula to Influence Strategy

February 03, 2021

UUUGH! Another meeting where those marketing people get up with their fancy presentations and get what they want, while you sit there trying to figure out how you’re going to make it happen.

Traditionally, procurement and supply chain management have been viewed as secondary functions compared to others in management. Depending on whether your company is Finance, Operations, Sales or Marketing driven, it seems like key decisions are made by others and procurement is responsible for negotiating the best deals to make it happen.

But this is changing. Companies are realizing the inherent power of procurement’s ability to manage risk and play a pivotal role in generating profits for their business.

There is no reason for procurement to take a back-seat to the strategic discussion. Your role is too critical to profitability.

This is where it makes sense to grab a page out of the marketing playbook to not only build your personal brand inside the organization, but to make a positive impact on the bottom line.

In this article, I’m going to show you a simple communications formula for marketers use to influence strategy. Before you go into any meeting, simply outline your talking points using this formula and you’ll not only position yourself as an expert, you’ll get the buy-in you’re looking for.

Why This Formula Persuades Without Fail

The secret to using this formula in your communication with anyone is that it literally manages the little voice that’s inside everyone’s head. For example, you’re reading this right now and thinking “I need to pick up milk at the store” or “Can this help me?”

The name of this game is to say something powerful. Let their little voice speak and then answer the question the little voice is asking.

Here’s how that works.

Step 1: Identify a Burning Issue

The burning issue is a single sentence that states a fact and the impact of that fact on the audience. As soon as you say this sentence, the little voice inside their head will say “WHAT? How can this be?”

Example: A global pandemic is coming and there’s going to be a run on toilet paper. Right now, our supply chain has enough to supply for one week.

Now, let’s see how this works.

Your first step is to get to the heart of what’s happening in your industry and in your world.  Think about your audience and recognize that they are focused on what’s going on in their world.  They haven’t been reading what you’ve been reading. They simply don’t know what the trends are and how those trends are related to them.  You have to tell them.

This means sitting down and writing out what “you know for sure” about what’s happening in your industry and what that means for every person and every department in management that is involved in making decisions.

Your burning issue won’t be perfect the first time out.  Just start with something. You can change it later. In fact, work on creating as many as you can. I promise you will use them.

To get you started, I’ve come up with a list of global trends that are impacting procurement right now. I’m going to list the trend and then I’m going to make up some potential ways of showing how this trend impacts key departments and stakeholders. This is just an example so you can see how this works and adapt it for yourself.

  • Complexity: Globalization and complex networks of supply chains are adding complexity to the procurement process.
    • Impact on Sales: Complexity can force us to increase price — and you don’t want to sell price increases
    • Impact on Operations: Complexity will impact delivery dates – and you don’t want to have to shut down because we don’t have raw materials.
  • Customer experience: Companies like Amazon have conditioned customers to expect ever shorter turnaround times.
    • Impact on Marketing: You can’t guarantee overnight delivery
    • Impact on Sales: You’ll lose loyal customers if we can’t compete on delivery times.
  • Impact of disruptions: More than thirty years of pushing toward lean manufacturing and single source supply have uncovered the risks with suppliers and a need for planning and preparation.
    • Impact on Operations: If we have to hold inventory, this will increase warehousing costs.
  • Brand reputation: All of these trends ultimately impact the reputation of the brand or the company.
    • Impact on marketing: We can no longer claim to be the best widget company or the only company that does XYZ

Step 2: Show the Data

Let’s go back to the little voice inside their head.  When we last left our audience you told them the burning issue and the voice inside their head said “WHAT? How can you say that?”

In this next step, you’re going to explain how you got to this conclusion.  This is where you get to show all your data.

SECRET TIP: How to share data with non-technical people

Before you get too excited. I want to share a secret that marketers know – but don’t often tell other people.  The secret to sharing quantitative data and information is to tell your audience exactly what the chart is saying – and what you want them to walk away with.

Instead of putting up a graph with a title “2020 Inventory Costs” and then talking about that. Make the title “Inventory Projected to Deplete by Q2.”

At this point their little voice is saying something like “OH NO – what do we need to do?!”

Step 3: Present a Vivid Solution

This is where you step in with your plan. The key to being successful at this stage is having a plan. A real plan that is ready for implementation. The more vivid and real and ready to implement your plan, the better it will be.

My trick is to lay it out in a way that shows them that there is no work for anyone to do – other than to say yes. If it helps to have visuals or props – do it.  The key to success is to make this a no-brainer.

Remember, you just told them there was a problem, you explained what caused the problem and what the data is saying AND you’ve given them a solution.

At this stage of the inner voice conversation they have one question – “How is this good for me?”

Step 4: State the Payoff

You’re almost at the finish line.  Now you get to tell them why this is so good for them. You can go from big picture – “This is good for the organization because…” and work your way down to other departments; operations will love this because…

Just remember, the payoff has to be connected to real problems in the company and in each department that your solution will solve.

Another way to look at it is to get super personal – in what ways will your solution help each department head achieve their goals and be a hero?

Step 5: Tell Them What to Do

Let’s check in with that little voice. At this stage of the process all of their questions are answered, and they are ready to sign on the dotted line.

YOU have to simply say something like “We are ready to put this thing in motion.  We just need your authorization for our budget right here.” Then you give them the paper you want them to sign and sit down.

Why Marketing Matters to Procurement

At its most basic level, marketing is the actions taken to promote the buying and selling of products or services. In today’s working environments, especially with so many people working from home, communicating your ideas is more important than ever.

Call it what you will, it’s a marketing function. While you may not have signed up to be in marketing, using some of these skills out of the marketing playbook will help you get your strategies and plans heard and position you as the hero who can make it happen.

This is a guest blog post from Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers, a cost-savings and marketing expert focused on providing tools, tips and strategies to do big things on any budget.

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