By Kiera Outlaw, ProcurementIQ Staff Writer
Procurement professionals, listen up! Improving your team’s active listening skills is imperative to your department’s success going forward. Technological advancements in the procurement arena are leaving procurement professionals with fewer processes to facilitate and numbered are the days of just stamping purchase orders and processing invoices. Instead, procurement is taking more ownership and responsibility for their categories. Communication has always been one of the most important soft skills for procurement to master; it’s vital for everything from stakeholder engagement, negotiations and even presentations. More and more these days, communication, specifically exceptional active listening skills, will help drive your team’s success.
What do we mean by active listening?
The Soft Skill You Need
Simply put, active listening requires the listener to be fully present with the speaker and attempt to comprehend, respond and remember what is being said. Moreover, active listening demands the listener to redirect their focus from themselves to that of the speaker, focusing on what they’re saying or, in the case of a procurement professional, what the speaker’s needs are.
True active listening is listening carefully and thoughtfully to what the speaker is saying, asking for clarification as needed, and waiting until the speaker has finished talking to respond. When responding, recap what the speaker has said to ensure that you’ve fully understood them.
Why It’s Important
When it comes to procurement, active listening can help in numerous ways, but we’ll touch on three aspects.
1. Stakeholder engagement
When working with your stakeholders (which includes internal and external stakeholders), active listening plays a significant role in ensuring that you really understand their needs. Not only will this help you in solving their problems, but it will also play a vital role in you getting more valuable information.
Too often the communication between procurement and stakeholders is stilted and formulaic. Active listening will allow for more open and honest communication because your stakeholders will feel that you’re really attuned to their needs.
Negotiations aren’t only about discussing the ins and outs of the deal, it’s about listening carefully and analyzing what the other party is saying to garner the best deal. This is where active listening comes into play. You can’t analyze the responses during negotiations if you’re not fully in tune with and focused on what the other party is saying. Like stakeholder engagement, negotiations can also become scripted and formulaic as you often find yourself asking the same questions repeatedly. However, if you hone your active listening skills you’ll find yourself in situations during the negotiations when you receive more or better information that you asked for. Knowing how to actively listen for that information and use it ensure that you get the best deal is what will lift your procurement department from good to great.
Yes, active listening even takes place when you’re conducting your procurement presentations. The audience, typically your stakeholders and team members, will need to feel that you’re attuned to their wants and needs. It is important to remember that active listening also includes other aspects of communication such as body language and eye contact. When you’re delivering your presentation, remember that it is during these moments when procurement is in the spotlight. The department must shine to continue building its credibility within the organization. With that in mind, maintain eye contact with your audience as it will allow them to feel more connected to you and your message. And remember to use open and embracing body language to bring about a sense of ease and calm with your audience.
Great communication is the foundation of a successful procurement department and active listening is an integral pillar. Keeping your team well trained in the soft skills needs for the job will help ensure your department’s success. For more, read our article on Characteristics of a Successful Procurement Professional today.