The work in procurement is not simple, and it is becoming more and more important, considering that procurement is becoming an increasingly important business function. Purchasing experts have become crucial for every company because their success directly affects the success of the entire company and even the revenues. To be successful, ‘purchasers’ must have a combination of many skills such as technical knowledge, soft skills and expertise in areas specific to procurement work.
What are the essential skills required to master the art of procurement and achieve success?
- Procurement expertize – You must have a very good understanding of procurement principles, practices and strategies to be able to apply them. Although some people are naturally talented strategists and negotiators and are likely to be successful in procurement because of that, everyone should have good theoretical knowledge. A successful ‘purchaser’ should know the theory of supplier management, negotiation, supplier evaluation and risk management because without theory, there is usually no good practice.
- Knowledge of the entire industry – In addition to general procurement knowledge, it is important to understand the ever-changing market trends and know how to monitor them and the mechanisms to keep pace with them. It is also important to know what suppliers are like and be able to evaluate them. In the same way, you need to know the legal regulations in order to know how to make the right decisions and to avoid getting yourself and your company into trouble.
- Developed analytical skills – Without good analytical skills, there is no good data evaluation. True ‘analysts’ are able to recognize certain patterns and deviations in data that others do not notice and make thoughtful decisions based on them. You should also be able to analyze well the supplier’s offers, prices, conduct cost analysis and the like. Analytical skills people often have or don’t have, but if you already work in procurement, you can definitely develop them.
- Good negotiation skills – Every procurement professional should know how to negotiate well because who will fight for a lower price or better terms if not you? Good negotiation means being skilled in building relationships, understanding the needs of your interlocutors and the power to reach mutually beneficial agreements and arrangements. You have to be open, eloquent, somewhat combative, but also patient in order to reach a ‘win-win’ outcome in negotiations.
- Communication skills – Communication is key in procurement, therefore it is important to know how to clearly communicate your requirements, needs, conclusions and the like. You must work well with members of your company and external suppliers and be able to solve problems to ensure that the entire procurement process ‘flows’ in a coordinated and smooth manner.
- Problem-solving abilities – Working in procurement means encountering various challenges and obstacles that require critical thinking and creativity in finding solutions. You should be able to analyze complex situations, anticipate potential problems and develop contingency plans. A successful purchasing specialist is one who is ready for anything and always has an ‘ace up his sleeve’.
- Knowledge of contract management – Knowing how to manage contracts means having a good understanding of legal terms, drawing up contracts and knowing how to minimize risks. Having this skill means that you are able to protect the interests of your company or organization as much as possible, therefore, you know how to review contracts well, spot irregularities and negotiate well when contracting.
- Supplier relationship management – Building and maintaining long-term relationships with suppliers is an art. Successful procurement specialists should have good interpersonal skills, i.e. skills of cooperation, problem solving and the like, the so-called soft skills. Long-lasting and positive relationships with suppliers do not come overnight, it is important to have patience and persistence to achieve it. Some purchasing professionals do not need much effort for this because they have these skills innately, but those who are a little weaker in this, do not worry, it is something that comes with experience and is worked on.
- Ethical and legal awareness – Procurement professionals must adhere to ethical standards and applicable laws and regulations. Of course, it is important to know them well. It is also important that you are well acquainted with procurement ethics, the practice of combating bribery and corruption, issues of conflict of interest and legal frameworks. A successful procurement specialist respects rules and procedures, does not bring himself and his company into unnecessary problems and risks.
- Adaptability and continuous learning – As in any business, in procurement it is a great skill to be adaptable and ready to learn. Procurement is dynamic, procurement technologies, market trends, procurement practices are constantly changing, and these changes are accelerating. Adaptability and a willingness to continuously learn are important to stay up-to-date, know how to use new tools and be innovative. We would say that these are the most important skills because there will always be those who will not be able to follow new trends or will not be sufficiently ready to learn, and you will then stand out as someone who will easily work anywhere, with anything and at any time.
These competencies, combined with experience and strategic thinking, make a winning combination for success in the procurement world!