Master Procurement with Kindness

There I was, sitting in my manager’s office, having recently been promoted to a Purchasing Manager position being told, If you want to be successful in Procurement, you will need to be less nice and more aggressive. Dumbfounded, I couldn’t help but think his statement was absurd. My view on business has always been about building relationships and growing partnerships to help my company reach its goals. Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to be a push-over, but aggressive just isn’t my style.

However, it was this conversation with my manager that continued to haunt me as I transitioned into my new role. I began to worry that I would need to become someone I wasn’t in order to survive this career choice. Thankfully, one day, a Senior Executive recommended a book to me called The Power of Nice, How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. After reading the book I immediately felt empowered and at that moment decided that being aggressive would not work for me. I could use being nice to my advantage.

Throughout the book, the authors discuss the idea of developing positive impressions and that little gestures yield great results. This idea proved to be a very successful one for me and my company. While I was executing an RFP, shortly after reading the book, I realized for the first time that using nice strategies was working to my advantage.

I was searching for a new print supplier for marketing collateral and business cards. In sourcing this spend, I conducted an RFP with 4 national providers. I approached the process collaboratively, aiming to achieve a “win-win” outcome with the providers. Working with a business development manager of one of the suppliers caught my attention. With each interaction he repeatedly stated how impressed he was with my collaborative and friendly approach to this event. He appreciated how I engaged him as a potential business partner, actually understanding his perspective and identifying ways to come to an agreement ideal for both my company and his.

As a result, the business development manager continued, throughout the entire process, to go above and beyond with his availability, responses to my questions, pricing structure, and account management practices, etc. He positioned his company as a best-in-class provider and strove to win the business because of the relationship I was building. I recognize that as a sales person, his goal was to win the business but he also knew that I was not the final decision maker. We both believed you get more flies with honey and as a result, the stakeholders chose his company. They became a strategic partner for our marketing team and were the easiest supplier to work with, making vendor management a breeze for my team, as well as saving us money.

Ultimately, niceness can work to your advantage in business and in life. I can tell you from the original conversation with my boss, I did learn that sometimes difficult decisions are necessary, but you can be stern without compromising your kindness. One style doesn’t fit all, especially in procurement. Don’t be afraid of figuring out a work style that suits you best, and be flexible when situations require you to change your approach.

About the Author:  Tracey Horrocks is a Senior Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, LLC with years of experience in procurement and strategic sourcing in an array of categories including Professional Services, Marketing, and Facilities Maintenance. In her role, Tracey serves as a pundit for developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies. Her detailed approach to supplier identification and vendor management helps clients achieve sustainable costs savings and operating efficiency.