Add value by demonstrating knowledge of categories, suppliers and markets © 123Rf
Add value by demonstrating knowledge of categories, suppliers and markets © 123Rf

Eight steps to better stakeholder engagement

23 April 2018

Stakeholder engagement is an enduringly hot topic, particularly in indirect procurement. 

Why? According to Graham Crawshaw, global services director at procurement network CASME: “Because everyone thinks they can buy, so if you don’t have your stakeholders engaged, it’s going to be challenging to do anything more.”

At ProcureCon Indirect in Copenhagen, Crawshaw shared some of CASME’s benchmark findings about stakeholder engagement, and the steps procurement professionals can take to improve this critical area.

1. Profile your stakeholders. “You can’t keep everyone happy all the time,” said Crawshaw, so split stakeholders into tiers, like you would suppliers. He suggested a bronze, silver, gold structure. Bronze might be those people you chat to by the coffee machine, silver might involve more formal meetings, and gold developing objectives jointly and spending lots of time together.

2. Understand your stakeholders’ requirements and use their terminology. Don’t use procurement speak.

3. Align procurement activity to their business objectives. “Make sure you talk about benefits rather than savings,” said Crawshaw. “What can you bring? What can you offer them?”

4. Add value by demonstrating deep knowledge of their categories, suppliers and markets, and use conversations with stakeholders to showcase that value. “You probably know more than them in many areas, even if they are experts,” he said.

5. Start small, establish credibility and achieve quick wins. While some people put out fires for their stakeholders, Crawshaw suggested this was not the best strategy for long-term success.

6. Focus on face-to-face engagement where possible, even if you’re spread across regions. “Communication is absolutely key to success,” he said. “You can't just sit at your desk and fire off emails. Actively get involved with your stakeholders, demonstrate value and talk to them in person.” Investment in face-to-face engagement could involve putting on supplier days and internal roadshows, for which “the ROI is almost always very powerful”.

7. Consider co-locating and having procurement people sitting within stakeholder teams. “Don’t let them go native, but if you have the right individual, sitting with [stakeholders] is very powerful and helps with long-term engagement,” he advised.

8. Start early, and integrate information about procurement into your organisation’s employee on-boarding process.

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