Forget about Procurement and HR: How about Sales and Service Delivery?

100613053Nobody has enjoyed the friendly debate over the last few years on where contingent workforce program responsibility should sit, HR or Procurement. I wrote about it two years ago just to highlight my infatuation with it.

Well, just as important but getting far less press is the friendly relationship enjoyed between the sales and service delivery teams of MSP firms – yeah right.

I have a hard time counting the number of times I have discussed this with current and former colleagues in this space. I have lived it as well, so this isn’t third-party he said/she said speak.

Last week I spoke with a well-connected resource from a well-known MSP firm about this very topic. My resource, Jess (not her real name) was in the middle of working with a difficult client who was expressing a heightened concern over failure to hit certain critical KPIs. It wasn’t just this particular client she was frustrated with, but the process for how the business was won in the first place. “The client has certain expectations after the business has been awarded and the delivery team was nowhere in the picture when these commitments were made,” she said. Jess went on to say that her firm is not the only firm at fault, as the client’s negotiating team may have no true understanding of what their end-users really need.

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Jess and her firm are no different from many of the other organizations I have met with on these same concerns. The sales team has to meet an established quota and the service and delivery team have to make good on what the sales team has committed to. We all know how this process works: the sales team comes in, spends a ton of up-front work with the client, establishing the relationship, answering the tough questions, making certain concessions but ultimately signing the deal then heading off to the next opportunity. The service and delivery team comes in and takes it from there.

The service and delivery team will proceed to build out the operations model, negotiate contracts, build out rate cards, get an understanding of the client’s culture, etc. This is where it gets really interesting. The ah-ha moments (and there can be many) typically surface early on and are most always around supplier negotiations and everything that goes with it, from pricing to mandated insurance coverage limits by the client. Other surprises can occur, such as if a broad market analysis is conducted and you find certain locations are unionized or the minimum wage is higher than the federal level and not in line with your agreed-upon pricing for a particular position(s). This can create a position where you are upside down in costs on these positions. Then there is the pre-arranged agreement that stipulates the number of resources you will have to manage the program and you find it is actually a 24/7 guaranteed contact coverage deal. I could go on.

This leads us back to the “who owns what part of the deal” arrangement. On the client side, HR and procurement need to have better alignment for programs to have the best chance at success and I do think this is starting to happen. On the MSP side, it is time for the sales and delivery team representatives to spend more time together at the front end as this too will optimize program success.

Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away if you are an MSP and your operations’ folks say that is impossible to deliver. Conversely, if it is strictly an operational process that you may need to implement as a result of a sales proposal, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Talk about it, because at the end of the day, it is your firm’s reputation at stake. The client will surely appreciate full transparency in this model.

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Gary Campbell
Gary Campbell is the Principal at Impact2Lead, a leadership development and contingent workforce consultancy.

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