There’s a joke among engineers that new grads lament not
taking more maths subjects during their degree but, as they progress, rue not
improving their communication skills. Procurement professionals don’t have the
luxury of hindsight. From day one, our ‘soft skills’ make or break us.
According to the Ikaros community, the top three procurement
Yes, all three are people skills. Hardly shocking, I know.
At the end of the day, procurement is about people. If you want to be a
procurement superstar, these skills must become your superpowers. Let’s take a
deeper look at each of them.
So, what is a stakeholder? Quite simply, they are either
those who are directly involved in the procurement process, or those who are
affected by outcomes at any stage along the supply chain. Stakeholder
management is about developing and maintaining productive relationships, which involves
the systematic identification, analysis, planning and implementation of actions
to engage with stakeholders. As any seasoned procurement professional knows,
the tricky part is dealing with a number of stakeholders who have different,
and sometimes conflicting, interests.
There are usually four steps involved in stakeholder
Communication and adaptation are the keys. You need to be able to identify the stakeholders involved and anticipate their desires in order to communicate with them effectively. It’s important to remember here that communication is a powerful tool, both for good and bad, and therefore one of the vital procurement skills.
No project has ever been undertaken that avoids competing
interests. Prioritisation is your path through this murky swamp. You don’t need
a medical degree, but you will need to do a little triage here and prioritise
your stakeholders, especially those of equal influence but competing interests.
This is tricky, and experience counts for a lot, but deliberate and careful
planning will negate the more serious pitfalls.
Of course, planning doesn’t mean rigid instruction. If you
want to become that procurement superstar, you need to watch and learn, adapt
to the idiosyncrasies of the stakeholders, and understand that one size does
not fit all. Stakeholders are people, and different people require different approaches.
A good chunk of productive communication comes down to instinct, which has to
be honed. Plan, but be light on your feet.
Negotiation is not unlike walking a tightrope. Overconfidence
can ruin you as surely as doubt and indecisiveness. ‘I am a great negotiator’,
declares the person walking into the meeting room looking to charm the pants
off the stakeholders. Your gut reaction to this particular individual is
universal, hence their style of negotiation goes over like a lead balloon.
On the other hand, stakeholders can smell a lack of
confidence a mile away; never walk into the meeting room thinking you’re
doomed, or at a disadvantage. You’ll lose respect, and vital lines of
The good thing is that skilful negotiation can be learnt. Nobody is born a brilliant negotiator; the required skillset is taught and continually honed. The following are ten skills that Harvard Law School recommends learning if you want to become that superstar negotiator:
The final superpower is emotional intelligence. Some would
have you believe that you’re either born with this or you aren’t. Wrong.
Just like negotiation skills, emotional intelligence can be
taught. After all, acting is all about emotional intelligence, and it’s a
learned craft. This doesn’t mean you need to go all De Niro and start picking a
fight with a mirror, but it does mean you should be aware of your emotions and
be able to control and express them appropriately.
According to the psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author
of the New York Times bestseller “Emotional Intelligence and Social
Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships”, there are five
components to emotional intelligence:
Rest assured, all this can be taught and honed, just like
stakeholder management and negotiation. These soft skills are at the heart of
effective procurement, so the sooner you start to learn and exercise them, the
closer you’ll be to superhero status.
Comprara can help. Visit our website Academy of Procurement which isn’t just about the hard skills – we know the importance of the soft stuff too. We’ve partnered with negotiation experts who can take your people skills to the next level, so call us today!