There are millions of procurement professionals in the world. So what skills are going to make you stand out from the crowd?
There are millions of procurement professionals around the world. And every single one is different.
Which is fortunate, given the range of activity which Procurement has to undertake, and the different characteristics which are necessary to succeed in those roles.
In amongst that diversity, there are a number of characteristics which the most successful can display. These characteristics are ones worth cultivating in our careers.
There is no particular order here. But our top five ways to stand out will always contribute to success, both when working in the organisation and when we’re seeking to develop our careers.
Communicate like a Professional
This is true in many parts of the business, but is absolutely critical for Procurement. We’re often trying to sell hard ideas, to get concepts across, to change opinion and views, and to do all of that we need to be excellent at communication. Not just Powerpoint, but using a wide range of media, types of communication, styles and messages.
We also need to be excellent at preparing and rehearsing our communications, getting them on point and noticeable, able to stand out above the in-company noise. To do this, we need to spend time practising and getting our messages right.
As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Be hard on yourself, and seek to improve. Being able to prove your understanding of the way Procurement needs to communicate and influence upwards with examples, will impress any recruiter.
Take the Wider View
Procurement can be accused of being one dimensional. We can get sucked into delivering price based targets, and loose sight of the bigger picture.
To operate effectively, we need to be excellent at maintaining a broader commercial perspective for the organisation, and making sure we’ve got both the short view and the long view in our sights.
The best in Procurement stand back and take in what the business really needs to achieve. They seek a balance between often conflicted requirements from different stakeholders. If we can maintain that overview, we will often deliver far more than if we get sucked into a one dimensional view.
Showing business aptitude and seeing procurement in terms of solving business problems, is an extremely valuable asset to any procurement function.
Bounce Like a Rubber Ball
Procurement can be tough. As the people on point for delivering value from the supply chain, we often can feel the weight of the business on our shoulders, while still trying to get through to a value improvement we can see but can’t quite reach.
To maintain a high degree of performance we need to have a high degree of resilience, to be able to bounce back and keep going. Holding onto our core beliefs, keeping going when it’s being sought and getting to the outcomes we want to achieve are great outcomes all by themselves.
There is no doubt that Procurement requires tenacity. Be able to prove your ability to stay the course for long term sustainable results rather than short term glory.
The technical stuff is often less of an issue than the people stuff. This means that we need to network hard, identify the decision makers and opinion formers, and be aware of their issues and agendas.
Knowing who people are, what their concerns and needs are, and being able to reach out to them to both influence but also to offer support, is a massive help when trying to progress our own agendas.
It isn’t a one way street of course. These relationships are precious. We need to make sure we’re managing our relationship resources, just like we should be protecting our time. Show how you value your network and how this helps improve the positive effect of procurement.
Know your Stuff
There’s nothing better than watching someone with a fantastic grasp of category and business issues making a case.
Having a broad grasp of what is happening in a market, how it relates to the business overall, looking at short and long term effects, providing imaginative solutions which test the range of what is possible, with stakeholders aligned or at least neutral, with a thought through plan of action. Those are the days when the future of Procurement looks brightest. The individuals delivering that insight will look like stars in the organisation.
Whilst you may not need to have deep category knowledge to get your dream job, having an understanding of procurement excellence and the challenges of buying in markets is key to bringing true expertise to the function and will be seen as an asset.
None of the above happens by default. It requires personal insight and understanding to make sure that skills and attributes develop in these areas. Spending time in each area is extremely worthwhile. Taking time out appraise ourselves in these areas, or get feedback from others, will give a big step up in how we’re viewed.
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