Procurement Skills vs People Skills

Education and personal skills development is a fundamental requirement for anyone seeking a meaningful career in procurement. Improving your skills, technical knowledge and competence not only enables you to progress your career, the knowledge and skills gained are also vital to the development and success of the organisation for which you work.

Many buyers, managers and directors with responsibility for procurement often find it difficult to identify their role with internal client relationships and top management. Yet procurement is a people business. The budget holders who are involved in mainstream business management have one thing in common; they each have a legitimate interest in the way the procurement process is carried out and the result.

These same business managers are using all the tools and techniques at their disposal to maximise opportunities. What better opportunity for the procurement professional to add real value across the entire internal chain?

Inter-personal skills, communication and presentation skills, for whatever reason incorrectly described as ‘soft skills’, are a fundamental necessity for the procurement professional. These are the skills that makes a “winner” as opposed to an “also ran”.

People occupy centre stage when they have something meaningful to say and the ability to say it well, be it face to face or in written communications. When communicating in writing try to adopt the key principles of clear writing; write to express, not to impress. Present your ideas simply and directly. Many complex terms are unnecessary. The writer who makes the best impression is the one who can express complex ideas simply.

With communication and presentation skills honed and the ability to ask critical business questions that challenge and test the budget holder (as you would a key supplier) the learning curve is almost complete.

Try to understanding the budget holder’s role in the organisation, their business goals, objectives and milestones. The upshot of this is that it helps to create a greater understanding of your role in the organisation.

In discussions with the budget holder it’s important to move the emphasis from ‘procurement’ to their goals and objectives. Ignore the possibility of ‘cost reductions’; this is secondary. For you and the budget holder it’s a matter of ‘improving all-round performance’.

But do not tinker around the edges. You will probably get one shot only to provide the budget holder with the path to better all-round performance. Think your approach through carefully before you make your first move.

It’s also a matter of supreme confidence in your own ability. With excellent interpersonal, communication and presentation skills supporting your procurement skills, your insight and understanding of the organisation and the goals and objectives of the budget holder, you may find your career sails along nicely.