From Contacts to Contracts: How To Build Relationships That Last

A long-serving community member recently took a well-deserved permanent break from the industry. The leaving party was far from the dull and dreary event one might expect. Instead, it was a lively and warm gathering of people from all walks of life. 

It was clear that he was a master of relationships. When asked about his secret to success, he responded,  “Always be willing to learn and share what you know, no matter how insignificant it may seem.” 

His takeaways were to reach out to others for their insights and share your own findings, however small. Approaching everything with genuine curiosity and a willingness to contribute garners respect and trust. 

When he was asked how he built these relationships, he said “easy, just good old networking”.

Networking is Far From Over

News flash, networking is far from over. It’s still alive and kicking. Networking is a relevant and necessary skill for all procurement professionals. But, if you’re not that confident with it, what’s the most effective way to start?

When it comes to networking, the key is to approach it as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. To help you establish and maintain meaningful connections in the procurement field, consider the following tips: 

  • Attend Industry Events: Make it a priority to participate in industry-specific events, such as conferences, workshops, and webinars. These gatherings are prime opportunities to meet professionals who share your interests and can offer valuable insights or collaborations.
  • Engage in Active Listening: While networking, focus on asking open-ended questions and genuinely listening to the responses. This makes the conversation more engaging and helps you understand your contacts’ needs and interests, allowing you to provide valuable support and build stronger relationships.
  • Offer Value: Networking is a two-way street. Be prepared to offer your expertise, advice, or assistance. Whether sharing a relevant article, making a beneficial introduction, or providing insights into generational trends, showing that you have something to offer makes networking more fruitful and enjoyable.
  • Follow Up: Don’t let the connection fizzle out after meeting someone. Send a brief message after meeting them and stay in touch, whether through business platforms like Procurious, email, or a coffee meeting. Consistent follow-ups help nurture the relationship.
  • Expand Your View: Broaden your perspective on what you have to offer. Your unique skills, experiences, and even your network can be incredibly valuable to others. Recognise and communicate this value during your networking efforts.
  • Identify Common Interests: Finding common ground makes networking more enjoyable and personable. Whether it’s a shared hobby, mutual acquaintances, or a common goal within the industry, these connections foster a sense of camaraderie and trust.
  • Leverage Social Media: Platforms like Procurious are an excellent way of maintaining professional connections. Stay active by sharing industry-related content, commenting on posts, and joining relevant groups. This will help you stay visible and engaged in the professional community.

Keep your Eyes Peeled

Opportunities for connection can come from anywhere at any time. Tania Seary, founder of Procurious, shares this example: “Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you. I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening.”

Remember, the aim of networking is not just to expand your contact list but to build genuine relationships that can contribute to your growth and success in procurement. By being proactive, authentic, and helpful, you’ll find that networking becomes a rewarding part of your professional journey.

Double Down – Get a Mentor!

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in the growth and development of procurement professionals. A mentor can offer valuable insights, share their experiences, and guide you through the complexities of the field. To maximise these relationships, identify mentors with a wealth of knowledge and willingness to share their expertise. 

Follow these 3 tips for finding a mentor:

  1. Seek out legends. Attend events, such as conferences, workshops, and webinars, to meet experienced professionals. Think outside the box. Does your mentor have to come from the same industry? No! There is a lot to be learned from other industries. Remember, showing genuine interest and asking thoughtful, open-ended questions can make your interaction more impactful.  
  2. Find your niche. Additionally, unique insights or niche knowledge can make you an attractive mentee. Knowing the latest trends, such as generational shifts in procurement practices, can give you a unique edge. Actively listen to your mentors and apply their advice to your professional journey. 
  3. Equally important are peer-mentoring opportunities. Engaging with colleagues who have similar experience levels can create a support network where you can share challenges and solutions. This peer interaction fosters a collaborative environment, making the learning process mutually beneficial. 

Ultimately, whether through formal programs or informal coffee chats, the connections you build can vastly enrich your career, providing a solid foundation for long-term success and personal growth.

Leverage Social Media

When it comes to expanding your online presence, platforms like Procurious and LinkedIn provide a powerful venue to showcase your expertise and connect with other professionals in the procurement field, so maintaining a positive brand is crucial. Regularly update your profile, share industry insights, and engage with content that reflects your professional interests. 

Conducting serious research to identify potential networking partners can make your interactions more authentic and meaningful. Instead of focusing on their job titles, delve deeper into their professional interests and achievements. This approach allows you to find substantive, shared interests, making your networking efforts more genuine. 

The Power is in your Hands

Building strong relationships in the procurement field doesn’t happen overnight, but with the tips we’ve explored, you’re well on your way. Remember, it’s all about being genuine and constantly nurturing your network. Stay engaged, show appreciation, and never underestimate the power of a small gesture, whether it’s a personalised message or a thoughtful follow-up.

Most importantly, focus on what you can give instead of what you can get. This mindset will not only help you build valuable connections but also make you a memorable, respected professional in your field. 

Keep your network alive, keep learning, and always be ready to lend a hand. Happy networking!