As a chief financial officer (CFO), I’m pulled in many directions on a day-to-day basis. My days consist of investor communications, debt holder management, board meetings, capital allocation decisions, risk management meetings — the list goes on and on.
Like any other professional, I’m busy. What that usually means is that I’m jumping from meeting to meeting and have to quickly shift gears onto different topics. Don’t get me wrong, I love every bit of it…..but if you’re in procurement and you’re meeting with me, there are a few things you can do to improve the chances of a productive discussion. By the way, this advice applies to anyone — not just a chief procurement officer (CPO).
That said, the focus of these suggestions is for procurement teams and my advice only comes from the CFO’s perspective. There are plenty of other approaches and actions that various roles and departments can take to better understand each other in an organization, but I’m focusing this analysis squarely on the relationship between procurement and the CFO, and six recommendations I have to make that relationship function smoothly.
My analysis follows an excellent set of procurement-centric recommendations from the opposite perspective — that of the procurement leader — from my practitioner analyst colleague Joanna Martinez.
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Have an Agenda
You don’t have to create a formal written agenda, but definitely come in with a plan. I’m a finance person so I like discipline and order. Start by telling me the purpose of the meeting and what you expect to get out of the discussion. If I sense the conversation going off course, you run the risk that my mind starts moving on to my next meeting.
You Might Need to Refresh My Memory
Remember, I probably just left a meeting on a very different topic, and I need to re-orient. I’ll eventually remember our last discussion, but it would streamline things if you could share a brief summary of what we previously discussed and follow-ups ups came out of that meeting — even if some of those follow-ups are still open.
Bring Tangible Support
You’ve made your pitch but show me numbers to support your conclusion. I understand that there will be soft benefits and non-quantifiable factors — and those are fine — as long as we can talk about those in the context of the quantifiable and supportable data.
Put Your Data on Paper (or in an Electronic Format)
While I don’t need a 40-slide PowerPoint presentation, I can more easily understand your supporting data if your numbers, analyses, and conclusions are all in one place and on a page, be it printed, virtual, or otherwise. If anything, it gives me a convenient place to jot down (or type) my notes. By the way, even though I just wrote that I might not remember our last discussion, I more than likely do because I tend to revisit my notes from the last meeting we had when I’m preparing for our current meeting. Bottom line: I’m just setting expectations.
Help Me Understand the Importance of Your Pitch
If you’re pitching a new vendor or a shift in our spend with a vendor, help me understand how that better aligns with our company’s strategy and purpose. For instance, if we have targeted spend with minority-owned companies and a particular vendor helps us meet that target, let me know that.
Give Me Your Honest Opinion
Don’t throw data at me and hope that I’ll make a decision. I’ll certainly have a point of view, but you’re the expert, so you should have a point of view on why, ultimately, your pitch is essential. I may disagree with you, but please don’t let this discourage you. I simply may have access to broader information than you do, and that may influence my opinion.
The above suggestions provide structure to our discussion and that structure gives me confidence that you’ve put in the work, which builds further faith in the overall pitch. It all adds up to a more efficient meeting. If you’re a procurement leader or on a procurement team, then I hope this brief how-to helps you better understand your CFO and gives you some view of how to prepare for discussions with them.
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