Are professionals conveying professionalism? Unfortunately, there’s increasing debate over this topic supported by day-to-day encounters. There’s much written about the frustrations caused by a lack of professionalism demonstrated by professionals. It’s reaching a point where there are declarations that “professionalism is dead.” This perception is reinforced by anecdotes of: ignored messages, calls not returned, being late or not showing for a meeting, and the most damning–checking messages during a discussion (a.k.a. not paying attention). Hopefully, this is all just anecdotal but, it’s probably not.

The online Business Dictionary offers that a “professional” is a person formally certified by a professional body…whose competence can be measured against an established set of standards. Merriam-Webster defines “professionalism” as the skill, good judgement and polite behavior that is expected. A quick look at certification requirements finds the focus to be on what one must know (process skills), not how one should comport themselves (people skills). To be an effective, complete professional requires conducting oneself with professionalism.

This isn’t intended to be an admonishment; however, in conversations with sales types, they continually express vexation with procurement professionals. Maybe this isn’t new. Maybe this is an age-old problem. One thing for certain is that “collaborative relationships” are a priority for supply management. The tone for a relationship is set by behaviors demonstrated during the earliest encounter between the procurement professional and a sales professional. (By the way, this same applies to encounters with internal clients).

First impressions greatly influence our willingness to collaborate. It’s often said that negotiations begin way before you reach the table, and continue after the contract is signed. The same applies to collaboration. If you want to be effective collaborator, it’s important to conduct yourself with professionalism with whomever you do business. In fact, it’s expected.

Jim Baehr
Jim Baehr
Jim Baehr is the Lead for the Sourcing Strategies Group LLC (SSG) supporting the supply management needs of clients in both the public and private sectors. Prior to forming SSG, he was an independent advisor for several years. His most recent corporate roles were as Vice President of Global Information Technology Procurement for Reed Elsevier, and Director of Technical and Services Procurement for Bayer Corporation. Baehr has extensive experience in senior management positions and an accomplished career in sales. Currently, Baehr is the President of the ISM – Pittsburgh Affiliate, a member of the Board of Governors of the Joint Chemical Group of Pittsburgh and a member of the Visionary Council of Coupa Software Incorporated based in San Mateo, Calif. He is a blogger, a frequent presenter at meetings and conferences and a contributing author to the book Next Level Supply Management Excellence: Your Straight to the Bottom Line® Roadmap.