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Fast Moving Procurement and Negotiation with Natasha Gurevich, Ep #82

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Today the truly amazing and inspiring Natasha Gurevich joins us. Natasha is the Vice President of procurement at Salesforce. She discusses her philosophy on leadership, negotiation and internal collaboration. She shares her incredible story of coming from a former Soviet Union country to starting her career in procurement. She discusses the journey she took to becoming the VP of one of the largest tech companies in the world.

Natasha shares the successes and challenges of procurement in the fastest growing CRM firm in the world. Salesforce has developed a product with a huge customer following around the globe. However, this growth is not always easy to support with efficient and successful procurement processes. It’s all about balancing the fine line of how to provide transactional support while extending strategic guidance to shareholders while becoming trusted advisors along the way.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:14] The challenges Natasha manages at Salesforce
  • [5:41] Establishing the trusted advisor relationship
  • [5:41] Maintaining the trusted advisor relationship
  • [9:10] The most important ways to create rapport
  • [12:55] Put the needs of the business first
  • [16:10] Could procurement teams be revolutionized?
  • [21:21] The most important type of communication
  • [25:50] Where Natasha wishes there was more time
  • [28:12] What you HAVE to find time for as a procurement leader

The process of establishing trust

Salesforce #1 value is trust. They take obsessive care with how they handle customer data, how they treat their employees, and how they treat each other. Natasha has worked hard to establish trust in herself and her team. They won’t negotiate based on their agenda, but based on what the company needs and what is beneficial for the team.

Natasha points out that being a subject matter expert in your client’s business also establishes trust. Nothing can replace the confidence and comfort you have next to the person who knows what he or she is doing. When we work with confident people, we are relaxed. Natasha also believes that collaboration is important. She shows her internal stakeholders that she treats them as partners and relies on their expertise.

Align with the business goals—not your own

Natasha points out that in her first few years in the field she negotiated based on her goals and objectives and she feels it was why she wasn’t overly successful in some areas. When she negotiated, her key driver was to find savings. Now she negotiates to drive value, to drive successful execution, and to deliver what the company expects, which is sustainable ongoing growth. It’s becoming more broad—but not more complex.

Price negotiation is complex because it’s dictating what you do. It forces you to be creative. When people get stuck on price or delivery (or one or two major aspects of commercial negotiations), they’re putting themselves into positions more than anything else. You want to discover the interests of the other party and your interests. How can you develop and grow the relationship for the business? 

The power of communication

When onboarding a new procurement team, what is the most important communication method? If you’re trying to get them acclimated to your way of doing things, a great deal of empathy is required. A lot of change is happening around employee base, processes and procedures, software and systems, etc.

Natasha notes that the different variables must be taken into consideration. Communication is often situational. You want to absorb how the environment has been structured, what’s important, and what’s important to preserve, and where they can find an opportunity to change. But the reality is you don’t have the time. Your onboarding schedule doesn’t allow for a listening tour. So she has to start acting.

In some areas, you make decisions quickly based on experience. Communication has to be done from the perspective of “Let me learn and let’s figure out together.” They’re all trying to solve the same problem. There may be different objectives, but they’re moving in the same direction. She puts a heavy emphasis on collaboration.You must allow people the opportunity to be on the bus—don’t force them. They get to be part of the change.

Why it’s important to prioritize your time

Salesforce is the fastest-growing CRM in the world. That type of growth isn’t easy to support from a procurement perspective. Natasha says that the challenge is to find a balance between how to provide support, provide strategic guidance to the stakeholders while becoming a trusted advisor and supporter to partners. The issue is that procurement doesn’t grow proportionately to the company’s growth. You can’t overwork the few people that you do have.

Natasha points out that procurement can easily suck every available second out of your life. A procurement leader needs to create an environment where both they and their teams can take a breather. It’s not the leader’s role to monitor and constantly remind people to take a break. The manager’s responsibility is to create an environment where people are allowed to do that. You need to set an example. Natasha admits she isn’t the best with work-life balance. But she knew she was going to give a year of complete commitment to salesforce (and she’s just wrapping up her first year now).

She emphasizes that it’s all about prioritization. You can find time to keep your mind fresh. When you’re working hard, the only way to stay on top of things IS to take a break. Your brain, your mind, and your body need a chance to recharge. So many forsake rest and prioritize productivity when we could be more productive if we took a couple of days for a break.

Make sure to listen to the whole episode to take in the breadth of Natasha’s knowledge and expertise in the space!

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