School’s in Session for Sales Professionals: Learning the Language of Your Industry

To get ahead, sales professionals need to learn the language of the industry.

By Brie Pritchard, Director of Business Development, Sourcing Industry Group

As a sales professional, I never thought to learn another profession’s language to get ahead of the game. I am not talking about native language, but about industry language. While we may all speak the same language in corporate America, we often don’t understand what the other is trying to say.

When you go to the doctor’s office and receive a diagnosis, or when you try to understand what your bill says after getting a check-up, tune-up, court appearance or whatever it may be, we don’t always speak that specialized language and have to get someone to translate. It is frustrating, to say the least.

Sales professionals work with all kinds of industries, companies, people and cultures. Whether you work with lawyers, doctors, biologists, mechanics or procurement, they all have their own unique language. I’ve worked among CTOs, CIOs CEOs, VPs and the like, and while I consider myself a very good salesperson, I wasn’t always speaking their language, which cost me closing deals.  

Does this sound familiar to you?

A little over a year ago I started working with Sourcing Industry Group (SIG), which provides thought leadership, training and networking opportunities to executives in sourcing, procurement, outsourcing, shared services and risk from Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies. I admit, I hadn’t worked with many people in procurement, supply chain or sourcing, but I had sent many RFPs, RFQs and contracts through procurement departments that never received a response, feedback or anything, which further compounded my frustration.

Then I took SIG University’s Certified Sourcing Professional and Certified Supply Management Professional courses that opened my eyes to the language that procurement, supply chain and sourcing professionals use. These courses helped me as a sales professional to realize what I needed to do in order to communicate more effectively. I learned how this group likes their contracts worded, the hard and soft skills of sourcing, the importance of stakeholders, the difference between procurement and buying, how to write a SOWs, sourcing business models and the list goes on! These courses were developed by practitioners, academics and subject-matter experts for sourcing and procurement teams, but the courses have an impact on those of us who work with them.

Now I can carry on conversations with sourcing and procurement professionals in their language, which allows me to better understand their problems so I can provide them with best-in-class solutions. I not only close more deals, but I am a more confident advisor because of SIG University.

I highly recommend that not just procurement, supply chain and sourcing professionals take professional development courses to stay on top of their world, but also providers to better understand the ins and outs of this amazing community of people who are so often misunderstood. 

 

Free Yourself from Spreadsheets with SmartScrub Subscription

This Independence Day, the ConnXus team is excited to announce the launch of SmartScrub Subscription, a new service designed to free you from spreadsheets and manual supplier data validation processes once and for all. 

The Power of SmartScrub

As part of sound supplier control practices, it is often necessary to classify your suppliers. When you classify suppliers, you can save time qualifying less critical suppliers and focus more time on the handful of critical ones that have significant impact on your product quality. Or, in the case of validating supplier spend, it allows you to focus on the suppliers that fall in the diverse category you care about most. 

SmartScrub® helps you streamline and visualize this supplier data by simplifying the historically tedious data enrichment and validation process. 

Now Automated & Available On-demand

With our new SmartScrub® Subscription product, you never have to worry about whether your supplier data is up to date. There is no more fussing around with spreadsheets or manual data enrichment processes, either. 

SmartScrub® Subscription takes SmartScrub to the next level and provides a fully automated system that makes it possible to maintain accurate supplier data at all times, without the headaches. We have taken the routine, repetitive, time consuming manual tasks and simplified them with a new product you can set and forget. 

“This is going to enable the sourcing and procurement professional to focus on being more strategic and engaging the suppliers versus managing spreadsheets,” said Daryl Hammett, ConnXus COO & General Manager. 

Using the My Scrubs Widget, you can easily assign and remove suppliers from scrub reports. Once your scrub has been processed, you’ll receive a notification and system-generated email linking you to your scrub results.  

Accurate, More Visual Data — Faster

SmartScrub Subscription does more than simplify the data cleansing process: It delivers faster, more accurate results, as well.  We guarantee 98% accurate records for U.S.-based businesses returned in under 24 hours — often much faster, as the service is completely automated once users provide an uploaded template containing supplier name and valid address. 

In summary, SmartScrub: 

  • Facilitates supplier data upload via an Excel or CSV template to upload or pulls via integration from other systems of record (e.g., ERP, S2P systems)
  • Automatically delivers validated supplier records, including diversity status and industry/commodity breakdown (NAICS), for any U.S. supplier at a guaranteed accuracy rate of 98% (as long as a name and current address are given)
  • Closes the accuracy gap to 100% with an additional concierge service where ConnXus team members enrich the data outside of the platform 
  • Centralizes cleansed supplier master data for organizational access and the addition of new records for cleansing
  • Delivers in-app or exported reports on the diversity status or industry makeup of a given “scrub” or vendor master

SmartScrub reports provide several tabs that help visualize your supplier data, including: 

  • A comparison of diverse suppliers vs. non-diverse suppliers. 
  • A comparison of supplier counts for all diversity categories returned as part of your scrub. 
  • A comparison in supplier counts for all ethnicities returned as part of your scrub. 
  • A comparison in supplier counts for all commodity categories returned as part of your scrub. 

Learn More About SmartScrub Subscription

Interested in leaving your supplier data spreadsheets behind once and for all? Check out Spend Matters’ detailed product overview or request a demo to learn more.

5 Simple Steps for Ensuring Brand Consistency

A powerful and instantly recognizable brand makes the job of a marketing department almost too easy. Positive branding greatly encourages customer trust in a company, breaking down barriers to conversion and giving marketing campaigns a head start in developing engagement. 

Developing a strong brand takes time, however, and can only be achieved through consistency. 

In this piece, we’ll look at some simple steps that businesses can take to ensure consistency is part of their branding strategy, and why it’s so important. 

Branding opportunities are everywhere, and that can be a problem.

 There’s almost no business situation that can’t be turned into a branding opportunity, whether it’s interacting with customers on social media, remodeling the entrance to your building, or simply changing the packaging used to ship your products. However, this in itself creates a problem – with so much opportunity for branding work, it’s easy for the message to become confused.

You can’t build a strong brand without consistency. 

 Consistency in branding is vital if it’s to be effective. If a consumer is presented with conflicting impressions of your organization, they’ll develop an instinctive mistrust of it, and this will discourage them from becoming a paying customer. So how can you ensure that consistency is a central feature of your brand building?

In short, it has to play a central role in your branding efforts. Let’s explore some steps you can take to ensure that happens. 

How to develop a consistent brand 

 Develop core messaging. Decide on a core message that you want your brand to convey, and make this an overarching theme of all your marketing efforts, even as the more detailed focus of each campaign varies.

  1. Create a logo. Use the same basic logo design across all media, even if you need to tweak it a little to fit each context. Importantly, make the original design files available for use by whoever in your team needs them, so that everyone is working from the same basis.
  2. Establish a visual aesthetic. Echo your logo colors across all the consumable materials your company uses, from letterheads to product packaging, and even staff uniforms and vehicles if applicable. Use the same fonts on documents and graphics. Your visual identity is more than just your logo; it’s the entire visual aesthetic associated with your brand. Just as you should use the same logo whenever a logo is required, you should stick to the same visual aesthetic, as well. 
  3. Codify the rules. Draw up a style guide which details the various elements of your branding, from logo to colors to fonts. Outline what sort of language should be used in literature, for example, a conversational tone or a more formal voice, and define the ideal customer that your efforts should be trying to reach. While a style guide is vital for ensuring different members of a large marketing team can work together, it’s also helpful for smaller groups in clarifying the overall approach.
  4. Enforce the rules. Make sure there’s someone who’s responsible for coordinating the branding aspects of the entire organization to make sure the same approach is used throughout. Remember that customers will come across your brand in many contexts, and if the branding is confused across different channels, then your customers will form matching confused impressions of your company.

 Building a credible brand should be a prime focus of any company, helping to develop a loyal customer base that responds well to marketing campaigns. However, a clear message and strong identity is key to success, so ensure you have a plan in place that gives consistency the prominence it deserves.

Business Networking: How to Prepare and Build Connections

Forty-one percent of professionals want to network more frequently, but finding the free time can be a challenge.

Networking does not have to be a daunting task. Instead, it can be a fun and easy way to expand your reach and build diverse contacts.

Whether you attend industry events or engage with contacts online, these tips will help you strengthen your networking skills.

Networking Events

Networking, like everything else, requires both preparation and practice to be successful.  Before you start, make sure you have business cards, a working email address and telephone number, and a script for a brief conversation with each person. It may help to practice your script to overcome any nervousness about approaching people and engaging them in conversation.

Another strategy to make the most of networking events is to set achievable goals for yourself.  For example, you could target 10 to 12 people with whom to introduce yourself, explain your business and exchange business cards.
In order to hit your goal, you need to be active throughout the networking event and avoid talking extensively with people you already know or sitting alone checking your phone.  Walking around looking for people who are sitting alone or between conversations is a great way to begin a networking conversation.

You must avoid only talking about yourself and your company’s needs when networking. The idea is to listen to the other person and determine if you have shared business goals or personal interests that could lead to a business contact or a friend in the industry.

If you determine that the contact is not a good addition to your network, you can make a referral to a more appropriate person or business. This can be done by casually offering to share the information with others or conduct digital introductions via email and social media.

It can be hard to keep all of the names, businesses, and interests clear after a networking event. So, you might find it easier to jot the details of each conversation down for future use, using either a cell phone or a small pen and pad.

After the event, your goal is to develop relationships with your new contacts and remain top of mind. A quick follow-up email sent within three business days reminding them of your shared interests and reiterating what a great conversation you had is an easy way to stay on their radar.

Online Networking

With so many profiles and platforms online, it can feel impossible to stand out and connect. Networking in a digital landscape is different than in-person but does require the same preparation and polish.

Research the leadership of a company but choose to contact them through their assistants. This will avoid awkwardness and leaving a bad impression with busy C-suite professionals. Websites like LinkedIn offer searches based on industry, geographic area and even schools and interests that could kick-start your research.

Proactively interact with a company prior to networking with its leadership. You can do this by commenting on its website and/or social media channels and by sharing its information in your newsletter and/or digital accounts. By engaging the company beforehand, you are building positive association and giving its leadership incentive to connect with you.

Following a leader or company’s business cycle can alert you to when is the best time to reach out. Many networking experts suggest waiting until someone needs publicity and/or public support for a project to introduce yourself. Timing is very important with digital networking.

Keep your online networking messages short and to the point.  Because the information may be read quickly on a phone between meetings, it’s vital to use accessible language and write no more than three to five sentences with a clear single ask. Longer messages will likely be deleted without being read.

Create your own self-promotional space through a blog showcasing your skills or a YouTube channel where you and your colleagues demonstrate the value or your goods and services and highlight what makes your brand different. By having a designated place on the internet to exchange ideas, your company can interact with like-minded groups and provide greater context for your area of expertise.

Bear in mind that quality over quantity applies to online networking. It’s not the number of LinkedIn connections you have but the number of solid connections and leads your presence on the platform creates.

Michele Cuthbert is the CEO and creator of Baker Creative. You can contact her at:

 

(614) 836-3845

www.baker-creative.com

mbaker@baker-creative.com

 

Or connect with her on social media:

 

myConnXion Business Center (myCBC)

ConnXus: Your One Stop Supplier Management Dashboard

We enable global procurement by revolutionizing the way buyers and suppliers connect. With in-house experts, industry-leading security, and intuitive software, we work hard to provide the best supplier management and procurement solutions for you. Read more

Daryl Hammett

SRM: “Supplier Relationships Matter” Do you pay your Suppliers ON Time?

At ConnXus, we’ve worked with countless organizations. From companies big and small, one of the biggest opportunities we’ve observed is managing multi-tier suppliers. Collaboration between buyer and supplier is the key to business growth. Successful SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) maximizes the value of your supply chain.

The act of sourcing changes a firm’s supply chain network and often adds complexity. Multi-tier supplier management systems involve complex decisions and require smart solutions that span the procurement process. In this environment, firms must learn to cope with the uncertainties and disruptions of a global supply chain. This requires a paradigm shift, one that challenges the traditional view of procurement–from a cost reduction function to a strategic, value-add, and risk-mitigating function.

To truly embrace a collaborative supply chain, buyer-supplier relationships must be symbiotic. Buyers help develop and create the supplier’s business opportunities, while suppliers provide high value and innovation in return. Trust runs both ways. Building a sustainable relationship with your suppliers requires a regular cadence of business rapport. For example, paying your suppliers on time reinforces their own business continuity and allows them to focus on market innovation. If you delay payments, this may affect your suppliers’ ability to pay their primes and harm your downstream supply chain. An organization’s supply chain network strikes a fine balance that can be disrupted from any direction. Doing your part ultimately provides competitive value for your business and brand.

Think about incorporating a feedback loop within supplier relationship management, and make sure everyone is held to the same standards. This will drive supplier engagement and bring in new ideas that provide more value creation within your supply chain. Bring diverse stakeholders to the table, to improve your overall procurement process. Let your category managers and IT department communicate with suppliers to bridge gaps within your supply chain.

Reviewing suppliers and getting their feedback improves your sourcing. The impact of engagement also determines long term sustainability and risk to your supply chain. Developing relationships with your suppliers can help foster collaboration, drive innovation, and impact your bottom line. What makes you different from your competitors? Together with your suppliers, the story of your procurement spend and impact can be told in a way that gives you a competitive market edge. By evaluating and communicating with suppliers, firms can reduce harmful practices and strengthen partnerships that take advantage of a supplier’s nimbleness and innovation.

 

Daryl Hammett | GM & COO
P: 513.204.2873

 

Key Ingredients for Healthy Relationships

Key Ingredients for Healthy Tier 1 & 2 Relationships

 

Building strong buyer-supplier relationships is key for any successful business. No relationship can function if both sides aren’t satisfied. That’s why companies like ConnXus and Onyx make it part of our mission to help businesses form strong buyer-supplier relationships that last, and ensure success in your industry for years to come.

There is an African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  This is a great metaphor for the importance of healthy Tier 1 & Tier 2 supplier relationships.  In an earlier blog we talked about the important role that Tier 2 suppliers fill in a supply chain.  Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of these suppliers that they don’t feel important, they feel disrespected.  Data shows that all business-to-business relationships are unhealthy if they don’t have 3 primary ingredients:

  1. Aligned Interests
  2. Clear Expectations
  3. Proper Governance

We will address Proper Governance in a future post.  Here we will focus on ingredients 1 & 2.

Whether two businesses find each other or are asked to work together by a shared customer, they must take the time and find their aligned interests.  A successful outcome (whether a product, a timeline, development of an idea, etc.) has a much higher probability with the right upfront work to dissect the opportunity with a critical view.  What does the customer really need (which may be different than what they actually say) and how can we confirm?  What’s the upside and downside of this scope of work?  What are the risks we can see clearly, and the ones we inherently are concerned about and how can we jointly manage or mitigate those risks?  What formal or informal agreements (e.g, who signs off on change orders) are needed to serve as “shock absorbers” as we jointly serve the end customer?

Businesses operate today at high speed, and a consequence of speed is often incorrect assumptions.  “I assumed you knew the timeline was changed!”  “Didn’t you read the 5th paragraph of my email where I highlighted this new customer requirement?”  It’s bad, and it gets worse by the day.  Healthy Tier 1/Tier 2 relationships are intentional about setting expectations – upfront through things like bid clarification meetings, and ongoing through things like quarterly business reviews.  They establish a forum and an agenda to clarify the supply chain needs, discuss what is driving those needs, and engage in healthy dialogue about alternatives to insure they will exceed the expectations of their end customer.

Simon Sinek is best known for his bestselling book:  Start with Why.  In his latest book:  Together is Better, he draws out some additional ‘truths’ that can help multi-tier supply chain participants deliver greater value if they remain top of mind:

  • A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other. (Aligned Interests)
    · Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love.  (Clear Expectations)
    · Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.  (Clear Expectations)

In other words…go farther together.

Toi Clarke Jones is an expert in strategic sourcing for Onyx Sourcing Solutions. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of corporate finance, global purchasing and consulting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Protect Your Business by Eliminating Cyber Security Threats

What can you do to make sure your business is a success? Most people would think this involves, among other things, careful planning, a well-designed and well-executed strategy and putting the right team in place for each task, and they’d be right. What some people may not think of, though, is doing everything possible to minimize and eliminate threats. Even if a business does everything else right, outside threats can still cause it to come crashing down.  Some of the largest and most rapidly growing threats, especially in today’s technology-driven world, are threats to cyber security.

Cyber security is critically important, especially if you’re a business that handles sensitive information like financial data, medical records or personal information. If the proper precautions are not taken, your network and the information it contains could be damaged or accessed without authorization. Once this happens, clients become unhappy, many of them will leave, and your business will struggle to stay afloat, particularly if you are smaller or newer than your competition.

How can you prevent this from happening? There are a variety of steps you can take. Plenty of companies specialize in cyber security, and many well-known companies like AT&T and Cisco have cyber security divisions. If you are a business owner or executive, make an effort to prioritize cyber security from the top down. Many advisory organizations, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, recommend a shift toward data-focused approaches such as continuous monitoring and real-time assessments. These approaches have proven to be more effective than the more traditional perimeter-based model. 

No business wants to fail, and most business owners are willing to leave no stone unturned to prevent that from happening. However, it’s also important to take into account anything you may be missing. When it comes to an issue like cyber security, overlooking even the tiniest detail can lead to disaster, and that is a risk businesses simply can’t afford to take. Luckily though, the average person has many tools at their disposal to prevent such risks, and you can learn everything you need to know about protecting your cyber security in minutes!

 

Thinking of Taking Out A Loan? Here Are Some Helpful Tips

If you’re buying a house or starting a business, chances are you’re going to take out a loan sooner or later. No one likes the idea of being in debt, but money doesn’t grow on trees, and most people don’t have enough of it to pay for these expenses out of pocket. Taking out a loan is rarely a process anyone enjoys, but there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make it a bit easier.

 

  1. Try to pay off your debt before applying for your loan. If you already have a significant amount of debt, taking on more probably isn’t a good idea. Make sure your debts are paid off, or at least under control before applying for another loan. This can improve your credit score, and increase your chances of getting a good interest rate.
  2. Speaking of your credit score, it’s usually a good idea to check it before applying for a loan. The better your credit score, the better interest rate the lender will give you.
  3. Be sure you don’t miss any details. Always go over everything, and understand what the documents actually say. You don’t want to be caught off guard or surprised by anything in the fine print. Be on the lookout for things like prepayment fees, or penalties for paying off your loan early.
  4. Be sure you understand if you have a fixed rate or a variable rate. With a fixed rate, your payment will remain the same. With a variable rate however, your payments will go up as interest rates rise.
  5. Consult a financial expert for larger loans. If finance isn’t typically your area of expertise, seek help from someone who does this kind of thing for a living. Having an expert walk you through this process will help you ensure no mistakes are made.

 

Hopefully you found these tips helpful, and are able to find the loan that works best for you. Good luck!

Change your self-image to reach your potential

As a manager or leader – or even just as a person – are you holding yourself back from reaching your potential? Learn how to change your internal dialogue.

Whenever I’m asked who I am, my answer is to share where I work, the organizations I am affiliated with and my family (I am a mother and a wife).

But in fact, that is not really who I am or what I do.

After I left my corporate career, it was difficult to introduce myself. I began by describing where I used to work, which let an awkward transition to who I had become. Once I learned not to define myself by my position, I began to respect myself as an individual and was more engaging. I discovered that listeners admired my career journey. This became a story I was proud to share.

Why doesn’t my self-image not match what others see? And how do I get past the need for external approval? Your self-image and the expectations are deeply embedded. Changing them requires a conscious effort, but with focus and practice, we can each reach our potential. The key lies in managing the way we see ourselves.

Self-image is our internalized mental picture of ourselves, which answers questions of how do I look, and how am I doing? Our self-image may impose limits on what we do: our internal dialogue might sound like “Because I am _______, I am unable to _______.”

An important caveat is not to allow self-image to hold us back. We can develop behaviors to push our limits by reframing our internal dialogue as a positive, by saying things to ourselves such as “to accomplish _______, I need to do _______.” Keeping action-oriented and positive will produce results that will reinforce a positive self-image.

Our perception of ourselves is based on how others view us. Changing our self-image requires rewriting your internal dialogue.

An unhealthy self-image focuses on flaws, with a constant comparison against others. Using an external measure sets you up for failure. You may see other people as being better. Measure yourself based on what you know and remember that no one is perfect. Adopt a positive self-image, rely on yourself, focus on things that give you pleasure and continue to perfect your ability to do them. We all have different strengths. Follow your passion, and you will shine! Take a risk and learn from your mistakes. The next time it will be easier, and before long you will have achieved mastery.

Women tend to underestimate their ability and performance, falling prey to the impostor syndrome, while men over-estimate both. Although men experience similar self-doubt, they are less likely to let it hold them back. The difference is in their willingness to take a risk and to the belief that they can succeed. We have the opportunity to manage our internal dialogue, using positive self-talk improves outcomes, confidence, and creates an upward spiral to success.

Life can sometimes get in the way of positive self-talk, raising doubts. And there are some situations which make keeping a positive outlook more difficult. Adopting these strategies approaches can change how you process negative emotions:

  • Journal putting your thoughts to paper has been shown to decrease worries and increase your ability to focus. The act of writing helps remove you from a situation and makes it less personal.
  • Shift your focus to include your past successes. Focusing on what you have accomplished provides a wider perspective which can keep the “imposter syndrome” in check.
  • Step back from the problem to give yourself time and space to move past the emotion. Once you can reframe the situation, you can dissect it and figure out what went wrong. Expecting perfection is not realistic. Improvement comes by making mistakes and learning from them, which increases your success in the future.

By separating yourself from your emotion, you can find practical solutions. Step aside and allow yourself to achieve greatness by not worrying about what other people will say or think. It is not important whether they like you What really matters is that you like yourself. Being able to accept your areas of weaknesses and follow your passion is not easy, but it will lead to contentment and self-satisfaction. It may seem like an uphill battle, but it gets easier as you change the way you view yourself and the world.

Try to:

  • Learn to trust yourself. Don’t rely on other people to measure your worth.
  • Figure out what you are passionate about and follow your dreams.
  • Accept things as they are, without judgment. Replace emotion with analysis.
  • Eliminate ‘should’ and focus on what you have done or will do. This removes the pressure to fit someone else’s expectations and permits you to be yourself.
  • Carrying a grudge can weigh you down. Leave the past behind.

We are all unique. Be proud of who you are, find things that give you joy and follow your passion – love yourself for who you are!

This contributed article was written by guest writer, Suzanne Weston, Diversity Program Director,  IW Consulting Group. IW Consulting Group provides a supplier diversity program and diversity and inclusion consulting. For more information on consulting services and other diversity topics, click here (www.iwconsultinggroup.com) to connect with one of our expert consultants.