10 tips for buyers to boost influence

Rebecca Ellinor Tyler is former editor of Supply Management
10 October 2015

“Be more strategic, creative and human” to promote the value of procurement to those outside the profession, buyers were told at the CIPS Annual Conference in London.

In a session called ‘building your brand’, Cath Hill, group marketing and membership director at CIPS, urged professionals to be “more than just procurement” to better sell themselves to the business and become storytellers.

She said to do this, they should try to establish they own personal brand. “Brand is a feature that distinguishes a product – identify the features that make you a core product. Maybe even come up with a strapline for yourself that describes you.”

Hill listed a number of attributes she sees in the profession. “You have a really strong work ethic, are dedicated to getting the job done and have a can-do attitude. You also have excellent communication skills, negotiating and influencing skills; the ability to build bridges with other departments and between your business and suppliers; brilliant time and cost management; and really good problem-solving skills. You’re a good team player, who has self confidence, project a sense of capability, the ability to learn from criticism, who can work well under pressure, adapt and be flexible.”

Hill advised professionals to consider their unique selling points – what they can do better than anyone else and where and how they can add value. She suggested individuals build on their soft skills, apply rational factors like success criteria, find out what people want and need and speak their language to improve perceptions of the profession.

She recommended that procurement and supply professionals, “poke their nose in”, put their hand up and get involved in more areas of the business. “It’s very easy to accept one’s role, to think ‘this is what people expect of me, I’ll be the best I can within those parameters’. It takes being brave to push for more.”

Issuing a challenge for the profession to raise its game and raise its voice, she said: “What is the point of doing a really good job if no-one knows about it? Is it really good work? You have to stand up and be counted or lie down and play dead.”

She offered 10 tips for building influence:

1. Establish your credibility, build your brand on what you are good at and your successes
2. Develop trust and become a trusted adviser based on results
3. Learn from your colleagues – they will also have good procurement ideas, learn and engage around the business
4. Understand the business’ goals and those of individual departments
5. Know your audience, understand the right language, understand how they think and feel. Do the right things for the right reasons and instil trust
6. Have self belief
7. Be brave, don’t be afraid to make mistakes but ensure you learn from them
8. Get user buy-in, work closely with them, see them as allies
9. Have a clear message and clear understanding of your role
10. Be passionate and confident

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