Nowadays, technical procurement skills are no longer enough when dealing with vendors and suppliers. While they remain essential, there is new and greater recognition of the ability to work collaboratively, emotional intelligence, and the ability to sustain cohesive partnerships. These skills equally facilitate efficient operations within the supply chain. These ‘soft skills’ are the hidden gems of career growth.

Needless to say, contract negotiation and cost analysis remain valuable to any procurement team. However, soft skills have understandably been recognized as another integral foundation for effective Supplier Relationship Management (SRM). After all, these “interpersonal” abilities forge trust, communication, and synergy — creating win-win scenarios that mutually benefit organizations and their vendors and suppliers.

Pitfalls of Supplier Communication

When a supplier fails to meet expectations, is it automatically the supplier’s fault—or could your communication skills be blamed? Often, supplier failure results from some mistake in or interpretation of the communication and not just supplier inadequacy.

Communication breakdowns that lead to misunderstandings about product specifications are not uncommon. Great communication with suppliers has become mandatory in procurement skills. It can spell the difference between getting the right goods and services for your organization at the right time to keep operations running and the disastrous alternative—having your organization’s operations completely halt due to a supplier’s failure to meet your expectations.

Competent Communication With Suppliers

Many procurement professionals tend to think of analytical and communication skills as separate skills when dealing with suppliers. However, those skills can be—and should be—combined. In communications with suppliers, should we allow assumptions as to what is customary, or should we specify things?

Frustration builds, deadlines are missed, and ultimately, costs rise. This is a prime example of how a lack of competent communication can cripple SRM efforts. Furthermore, poor conflict resolution skills can hinder your ability to tackle challenges collaboratively. This can lead to missed opportunities for innovation and joint problem-solving, hindering your ability to address supply chain disruptions or identify cost-saving measures.

The Essential Soft Skills Toolkit for SRM Success

Let’s delve into the “other” procurement skills to leverage in build stronger supplier relationships:

  • Relationship Building: Empathy, trust-building, and conflict resolution are the cornerstones of long-term partnerships. Foster trust through open communication, transparency, and keeping promises. Building rapport with key contacts at supplier companies goes a long way.
  • Problem-Solving: Embrace collaborative problem-solving as your go-to approach. Encourage open communication and actively listen to supplier ideas. You can arrive at solutions that benefit both parties by working together and leveraging critical thinking skills.
  • Teamwork: Collaboration doesn’t stop at your internal team. Foster teamwork and alignment across departments (procurement, engineering, etc.) and with your suppliers. This ensures everyone is working towards the same goals.

Sharpening Your Soft Skills Arsenal

Developing your soft procurement skills should be an ongoing journey. Here are some actionable steps you can take:

  • Take advantage of training & development opportunities: Attend workshops, online courses, or mentorship programs focused on SRM and soft skills development.
  • Practice active listening and communication: Engage in role-playing exercises with colleagues, actively listen to understand supplier perspectives, and seek feedback on your communication style.
  • Build relationships through regular communication: Schedule regular meetings with key supplier contacts, proactively address concerns, and be a reliable partner.
  • Embrace collaborative problem-solving: Encourage open communication with suppliers, actively listen to their ideas, and work together to find solutions.

Invest in Skills Development, Reap Rewards

Investing in procurement skills development, particularly in supplier communication, is an investment in the future of your supplier relationships. By mastering collaboration, communication, and other essential soft skills, you can unlock a world of benefits, including:

  • Reduced costs and improved efficiency through collaborative negotiation and problem-solving
  • Enhanced supplier performance and responsiveness due to stronger relationships
  • Increased innovation and joint development opportunities, fueled by a collaborative spirit

Start developing your soft skills today and watch your supplier relationships flourish. By working together in a spirit of collaboration, you can achieve remarkable things for your company and your suppliers.

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Published On: March 6th, 2024Comments Off on Soft Skills for Supplier Relationship Management
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