Despite the frequent jokes that communications remains a catch-all degree, poor communication remains the number one most cited reason as to why relationships fail. Therefore, communications couldn’t be any more fundamental to the building blocks of success for supplier relationship management within the procurement industry - with all the complexities inherent within the communications chain, finding ways to optimize one’s interactions and minimize the risk of misunderstanding will yield stronger relationships with clients and suppliers, and deliver greater cost-efficiency in the long-run. Thus, here are five communication strategies to consider that can maximize your procurement success:

5)       Designate Roles, On-board the Team, and Maximize Individual Strengths- Before practical consultation between clients and suppliers even begins, it is pertinent to establish specific roles for each team member. By doing this, along with informing each member what everyone else is responsible for, this creates accountability and helps eliminate potential confusion over who should complete certain tasks. Roles should also be assigned to maximize individual strengths – for example, if a certain member excels at implementing software solutions that manages suppliers, they should be delegated this task to produce the highest results possible.

4)      Enable Timely Output Through Strategy- When initiating discussions with clients and suppliers about the current procurement process, structuring a specific communication “plan of attack” to satisfy both ends can eliminate time wasted on discussions which lack focus. Creating an input-malleable SRM strategy that augments your client’s staff, while detailing how to overcome internal and external obstacles that prevent relationship and product optimization, is a good place to begin. Plus, following a strategy can be conducive for a more open communication environment, leading to my next point.  

3)      Maintain a 2-flow engagement- When working with clients to determine their best-fit suppliers, it is vital to not merely “hear” their feedback, but truly listen to what they are saying, as their feedback will guide strategic decisions that eventually lead to a compatible supplier. Nevertheless, communication cannot be a one-flow engagement solely between your firm and the client; it is also vital to engage the potential supplier for their feedback to understand their own objectives. Through assessing both sides’ people, processes, and technology, your firm will learn what is and isn’t working, and can use this knowledge to start formal negotiations that speak to what both sides are looking for.

2)      Drive Productivity Through Consistent Interactions- When communication remains unpredictable and does not follow a cohesive chain of command, it makes others less inclined to engage with you and hinders productivity. To heighten productivity, utilize consistent communication practices, such as maintaining a professional demeanor in all interactions, as well as determining a specific chain of command when responding to questions, emails, or otherwise. Additionally, productivity can be further heightened through consistent application of supplier governance tools that provide tangible metrics on performance, and act as grounds for communication between clients and suppliers.

1)      Implement Transparency, but Tread Cautiously- When clients or suppliers aren’t forthcoming about sensitive information with one another, this can act as a barrier within the communication chain by creating confusion, which hampers success. Thus, encourage clients and suppliers to engage in open dialogue about their processes so you can minimize and manage risk. However, what can be tricky is understanding where to draw the line between transparency and privacy – some information a client or supplier may leave out of discussions because they feel it will negatively impact the relationship, the contract, or even their general business practices; therefore, in your capacity as a consultant, work to mediate each side appropriately while simultaneously respecting rights to confidentiality.
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Emily Simonsen

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  1. You can't emphasize this point enough #2, "When communication remains unpredictable and does not follow a cohesive chain of command, it makes others less inclined to engage with you and hinders productivity."
    So very true. Thanks for the great info!

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