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What are vendors REALLY up to?

May 2, 2012

“Find out what your vendor is REALLY up to” screams the headline in my in-box. Upon opening the email, I find that I can consult with an executive who “got a wealth of insider vendor experience working at companies such as IBM and Candle Corporation” and who will “share this “insider information” about what vendors are up to on their side of the table”.

I find this type of hyperbole somewhat depressing. It plays on the fears – and conspiracy theories – that seem to permeate far too many procurement groups and which their trainers and (to some extent) professional associations seem determined to perpetuate. To my mind, all that this achieves is an underlying sense of mistrust that in turn undermines relationships and the potential for successful outcomes.

Having spent most of my career on the sales side of the business (including many years at IBM, including a period on Corporate Marketing staff), i must admit that a) I was never aware of any grand scheme to mislead customers and b) I never worked in an organization sufficiently competent to develop and implement such coherent behavior as this headline suggests. Indeed, it strikes me that any half-rational Procurement professional should stand back and think about their own organization (yes, I can guarantee that most work in companies that actually sell things as well as buying them). On balance, do they feel that their corporate management and the sales organization are clever and efficient enough to devise master plans to trick their customers?

In society as a whole, we are moving away from these scare tactics, from setting up ‘them and us’ environments. We have grasped that such tactics are in fact frequently designed by people who want power, who want to exercise control by establishing a mythical enemy. And to my mind, that is exactly what is going on here.

We all benefit from greater transparency and collaboration. It lies at the heart of human progress and economic wealth. So it is time to push back on these myths and focus on the real issues, including the selection of trading partners who share our culture and values.

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