What supply chain professionals can learn from salespeople

Salespeople and supply chain and procurement professionals are two very different disciplines, however, it is important not just to secure knowledge about the logistics industry, but also to learn from other professionals in different fields so as to become even more self-sufficient in their chosen careers.

It is exactly this difference in expertise and transfer of knowledge that would help to add perspective to the decisions of supply chain professionals as they further their careers. We look at the most important skills procurement professionals should pick up from salespeople.

How to sell an idea/change to stakeholders

Although selling a product or an idea is traditionally seen as a salesperson's forte, procurement professionals can also cultivate that skill. This is especially important when facing budget cuts, changing a trusted supplier, or when asking stakeholders to change the way they are spending their budget. Having an element of charm/empathy and influence, both characteristics of a good salesperson, can be hugely beneficial in getting buy-in and moving a deal forward.

When a procurement professional masters the art of empathetic engagement, he or she can better understand their stakeholders and their businesses. Once they are able to pinpoint the needs and concerns of their stakeholders, they can then make mutually beneficial suggestions that will be more easily accepted by the respective stakeholders.

For example, procurement professionals should understand that stakeholders may not always want the lowest price. They could sometimes prioritise anything from a faster response rate to a wider variety of supply.

Another great thing about really getting to know the stakeholders is this: procurement professionals may be too readily influenced by what their stakeholders want, and hence they forget about the value they can add. By fully understanding the concerns of others, procurement professionals can suggest a new angle to better solve the problem.

How to sell themselves

Most people struggle with selling themselves. The truth is this: If you do not sell yourself, people will be oblivious to your good qualities and undermine the value you can bring. The same goes for procurement professionals.

When they do not work on selling themselves or attempt to create a high profile/visibility, they shortchange both their company and stakeholders as nobody realises the true value they can offer. Therefore, sharpened selling skills are an advantage to supply chain and procurement professionals both in and out of the workplace.

Here are some tips to help you:

1.    Focus on your skills and outcomes

2.    Concentrate on how you can benefit the company

3.    Avoid telling others about your weaknesses (unless asked to do so)

4.    Prepare short stories to support your claims, skills and accomplishments

5.    Walk, talk and look the part

6.    Be likeable and confident

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