How to run meetings that strengthen your stakeholder relationships

Stakeholder Relationships

Are you asking the right questions in your procurement meetings? If not, it could severely affect your client and supplier relationship management strategy. Read our tips to ensure you’re getting it right.

Do you often feel like a superhero? (or that others think you need to be one?) As procurement pro, are you finding that your stakeholders expect you to fly in and save the day – not to mention putting out fires that needed to be solved, well, yesterday!

It’s unsurprising, however, that our heroic endeavours often leave us feeling flat – especially if we know that the original problem could have been prevented altogether with some basic strategies in place from the get go!

Sound familiar?

These strategies are so critical when it comes to stakeholder and supplier relationship management – if you aren’t nailing down the stakeholder contract, what hope do your suppliers have? And if you, as a procurement pro, can’t bridge the two parties, will either ever want to work with you again?

It sounds dramatic, but let’s break it down: something as basic as meeting etiquette can set you and your procurement team on the path to a winning outcome with your stakeholders.

Let’s take a look at an example.

An Undesirable Scenario

Your stakeholder is from a team looking for some services to support a current project.

Your team’s procurement pro kicks off the meeting with some small talk about their recent holiday, and smoothly moves into reflecting on their previous experience in helping this stakeholder’s team with other projects.

Now, down to business. Your procurement pro asks a three-pronged question: “How can I help? What contract are we talking about here? Who is the supplier?”

The stakeholder goes on to describe the current contract, the issues they are experiencing and what they are looking for in the new contract. Perhaps they are cognizant of the fact that their current provider is unable to perform the required services. Or maybe they are worrying that there are limited service provider options in the current market.

After a lengthy outline of the project’s parameters and the issues at hand, your procurement pro asks about the value of the new contract. Upon hearing that the value is only 300k, your pro immediately backs off, and stipulates that your team will have to re-tender.

The entire party is left feeling deflated and confused. Why was the entire project and its parameters laid out by the stakeholder, only to be shut down and pigeon-holed by the procurement pro so quickly? Surely there was a more effective way to structure that meeting, without wasting everyone’s time?

There’s a lesson to be learned from this scenario: time is key. And as basic as meeting etiquette can seem, it truly can make the difference between forging an average and excellent stakeholder relationship.

How to conduct an effective client meeting

In procurement, there are certain facts us pros need to gather, up front,  in order to make quick, informed decisions, or provide initial guidance for the stakeholder’s next steps. These facts can all be obtained with a watertight selection of questions, best asked in a structured manner, rather than giving the client unfettered space to delve into their project’s parameters and concerns.

  1. Get the facts

For projects that are within the indirect services category, the standard questions should include:

  • What’s the project?
  • What’s the outcome?
  • What are you buying?
  • What are the requirements?
  • What’s the spend? (both this approach and total spent in recent past)
  1. Find the bias

Ask these ‘cut to the chase’ questions that reveal the client’s biases, and provide insight to the market:

  • Do you have a supplier in mind?
  • OR, if already contracted: how do you feel about the performance of your current supplier?
  1. Understand expectations

Step into the shoes of your client, and understand where they are coming from:

  • What does success look like?
  • What does the market like? Are there any other companies that could do this work?
  • What are the known risks?
  • What is the contract or project interdependent to or with?

Lead the meeting, don’t participate 

Procurement’s role is to lead the conversation, no matter the seniority of the person on the other side of the table, or our potential lack of expertise in the particular field. We can’t know everything but having a set of generic questions tried and tested over time gets results and fast. Moreover, the clearer your understanding of the client’s position is, the clearer the picture you will be able to paint to the supplier involved. Communication is key, and it must be crystal.

Building amicable rapport with clients is important, yes, but so is time management, and obtaining the required information as efficiently as possible. Hands up if you can relate to the hour long meeting that could have been covered off in 15 minutes! Don’t be a passive participant – be friendly, and lead.

An effective meeting is a good meeting!

Keeping things simple and sticking to the basics is a sure fire recipe for success. While these tips won’t be winning any awards for meeting innovations – they are proven to be effective.

  1. Drive the conversation

Make sure you address your questions as soon as it is feasible, and don’t make assumptions! (unlike our procurement pro in the scenario earlier)

  1. Be effective with air time

Our example procurement pro was right to build rapport talking about their holiday, but the client didn’t need unnecessarily fluff about previous projects – they want to talk about this one.

  1. Ask the focused, but open questions

Be careful not to pre-empt the solution, and drive your client down a certain path by asking narrow questions.

Gathering the right facts, up front, will save you oodles of time in the long run. Not only that, but you’ll come off to your client as the ultimate procurement pro that you are! It’s a failsafe ticket to a winning outcome.

Source: www.procurious.com, 22/11/2021

Recommended reading: Global Procurement Event- free tickets