Stakeholder Relationship Management Advice From the Experts

By Hugo Britt | March 30, 2021

Just because you recognize your own value, it doesn’t mean you won’t be required to continually sell yourself, debunk stereotypes and assumptions about your capabilities, or work to accommodate the people around you.

For procurement, the need to challenge outdated notions about the profession and communicate its value is par for the course. In recent weeks, several guest speakers on The Sourcing Hero podcast shared their thoughts on why building meaningful stakeholder relationships is key to elevating the perception of the profession and driving business value.

You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar

Episode 10 features Robert Wright, Principal of ICN.

In some organizations, procurement has earned itself a “dirty reputation” for slowing down or killing deals – it’s perceived as the last road bump to overcome to make things happen. As Robert rightly points out, that’s not where procurement wants to be.

In my mind, the pinnacle of the profession is being that trusted advisor,” he says. “It’s that person that business folks and stakeholders reach out to as soon as they’re even thinking about a deal.”

In the early stages of his career, Robert realized the saying “you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar” rang true. “You’ve got to show value to really be able to get value back.” As a result, he shifted his approach when working with business stakeholders from “let me force you to do something” to “let me bring you into this and show you what I’m doing.”

When it comes to a potential deal, procurement must understand what is important to their stakeholders – what do they need and what are their priorities? How can they help procurement with the negotiation process to ensure the best deal possible?

“I’m happy to drive the car because that’s my job as a procurement professional but I want you riding shotgun with me because this is a journey that we’re both on together,” Robert says.

“That simple mindset shift transformed the relationships I had with stakeholders; it moved me from being that person in procurement who does the contracts to that person in procurement that we’ve got to bring to the table. People bring you in earlier when they feel like you’re actually valuable.”

Hiding behind numbers won’t get you very far

In Episode 9, Phil Ideson, Founder and Managing Director of Art of Procurement, notes that procurement professionals are typically numbers people. “We’re happier in front of an excel spreadsheet than we are trying to sell the procurement value proposition to a stakeholder.”

But, he warns, professionals must to be mindful of how they are spending their time. Does it largely consist of doing analysis behind the scenes, hiding behind numbers, and being process-oriented? Or, are you going out there and actively listening to find out what somebody really wants?

“If you’re in that spot when you’re happier behind the scenes it’s something you need to challenge yourself on,” Phil suggests. “Find ways that you can go and convince a stakeholder who has been a skeptic about working with procurement to do something with you.”

The problem with focussing entirely on data is that it often doesn’t matter. A key stakeholder could very well look at the data you present and still not want to work with you. Phil highlights the importance of storytelling when it comes to managing a stakeholder.

“What are the things that are important to that stakeholder? What are they measured on and how are they measured? Work backwards from what they are worried about achieving and figure out how you can tell a story to be part of their solution. And that’s going to be different for every stakeholder.”

Reversing the tables is important

Joanna Martinez from The World of Digital Disruption believes that procurement professionals must be cautious not to lose sight of themselves.

“When you are a leader in the procurement space, people come to you – all the suppliers and salespeople want to meet you,” she explains. “You can spend all day having your ego fluffed.”

In Joanna’s experience, it was important to visit supplier sites and actively pitch her organization to the supplier community. “It didn’t matter if I was in a high-profile company or a company that no one knew, you need to spend some time with the tables reversed.”

She believes that procurement professionals must spend some time raising their organization’s profile to become a customer of choice. “Procurement people complain a lot about not being invited to the table. Now, suddenly you’re in this role where the suppliers are all coming to you and they all want to take you to dinner, etc. It’s easy to forget to be humble and it’s easy to forget that you need to engage your suppliers.”

Creating a win-win scenario

Episode 5 features Nick Gunn, Co-Founder & CEO of The NiVACK Group.  

Nick believes that the best procurement professionals take the time to understand their clients’ needs and the businesses they operate. “The sourcing hero takes that information and turns it into an approach whereby they deliver the value that the client, internal customer, or internal stakeholder really needs.”

Nick’s primary goal is to establish the motivation of the person with whom he negotiates, thus ensuring that both parties can walk away satisfied. “They have to come back with a win of some sort. Hopefully what you can do is give them something, [then] they can give you something, and you both come away winners. You only really get that by listening and asking insightful questions that will give you that kind of insight.”

Need more insight?

Check out other articles filled with advice from The Sourcing Hero podcast guests:

And be sure to get caught up on full episodes of The Sourcing Hero podcast here.


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