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5 Key Skills and Attributes of Highly Effective Procurement Professionals

June 23, 2014 by Hillary Ohlmann

Procurement Professional

Recently this question has been a topic of much discussion on LinkedIn and procurement blogs In fact, there are nearly 250 comments on a LinkedIn thread relating to this topic. Here at DeltaBid, we’ve met a lot of procurement professionals, and we’ve noticed that the successful ones have many of the same characteristics.

Most recruiters look for candidates with the same set of base skills. The folks over at Procurious, a network for a procurement professionals, have identified those five general attributes: innovation, strategy, influence, leadership, and business acumen. While that list is a great place to start, we think that some really important skills and attributes are missing. To be successful in procurement, you have to have a little more than the bare minimum.

DeltaBid’s top five skills and attributes for procurement professionals

The following five attributes were also mentioned several times by different procurement professionals on LinkedIn, so it seems like there is some consensus in the procurement world when it comes to identifying what it takes to become a consummate procurement professional.

1. Excellent communication skills

The procurement department often finds itself at the crossroads between multiple stakeholders: suppliers, customers, management, sales, etc. (If you need help identifying your company’s stakeholders, check out this article.) Excellent communication is essential. A procurement professional must be able to express him or herself clearly in writing and in conversation. Of course, a good communicator must also be able to listen in order to better understand the needs and perspectives of colleagues and suppliers.

2. Savvy negotiation skills

This skill goes hand in hand with communication skills. The ability to negotiate doesn’t just refer to the ability to get something at the cheapest possible price; negotiations usually involve conversations about quality, delivery date, future relations, and more. A good negotiator knows how to get the best value from a supplier while still maintaining a positive business relationship. Also, knowing when to take negotiations out of the boardroom and onto the golf course or into a more relaxed, social environment can be a key attribute as well.

3. Ability to prioritize

A great procurement professional knows how to prioritize. In a busy office, there will often be many fires that need to be put out all at once, so to speak. While the ability to multitask may come in handy, it’s absolutely useless if you don’t understand what tasks are more important than others. This skill can be honed with experience, but it may be difficult to teach. Being able to prioritize successfully means being able to efficiently analyze potential worse case scenarios and quickly rank which tasks need to be dealt with immediately and which can be put off until later.

4. Integrity

Integrity is important to many professions, but it is especially important in procurement. Integrity means doing what you say and saying what you mean. Integrity helps professionals become leaders within the company and well respected by those they deal with outside the company. Integrity also implies a sense of reliability; if they say they will get the job done, they’ll do it.

5. A positive attitude

A positive, can-do attitude may be the most important attribute of all since it can’t be taught. Look for someone who approaches problems as exciting challenges rather than tedious tasks and views procurement as an essential component of the company rather than a necessary evil. If they don’t see their job as important, how will they convince colleagues in other departments to follow through with the procurement process?

You'll notice that these attributes fall in the realm of "soft skills." Feeling like you need to work on yours? Here are five ways procurement professionals can improve their soft skills.

How do you find someone with these skills?

The first place to look is within your company. Maybe one of your employees already has the needed skillset and personal attributes to succeed in procurement.

It’s also helpful to look at the people in your professional network. LinkedIn can be a good place to find potential candidates as well. There are also a lot of active recruiters on LinkedIn, but make sure to deal with someone you trust.

Once you have a list of potential candidates, check out their profiles on Match.com and Facebook. Well, maybe don’t go that far, but take the time to get to know candidates outside of the list of degrees and accomplishments on their CVs. Since most of the attributes above are considered soft skills, you’ll only be able to see them once you meet candidates in person and get to know them.

Rich Rafdahl, the originator of the discussion on LinkedIn, had a great suggestion for those hiring potential procurement professionals. Rather than simply chatting about past work experience, he suggested candidates should be given examples of real situations they might encounter every day at work. Use situations unique to your company, especially ones that have come up frequently. Then ask candidates to outline a hypothetical response.

Ask yourself these questions as they respond:

  • What’s their attitude towards this problem? Do they stall and look defeated or do they work through it with a smile?
  • How well are they able to walk me through their thought process? Are they able to communicate their ideas clearly?
  • Do they prioritize the steps to a solution? How do they prioritize when faced with multiple problems at once?

We would be happy to hear about any additional interview tips or opinions on attributes. Just let us know in the comments section below!


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Hillary Ohlmann

Written by Hillary Ohlmann

Hillary is DeltaBid's resident writer, copy editor, researcher, and all-around procurement enthusiast. She holds a degree in Journalism and Spanish from UW-Madison.


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