It is often said, with regards to some investments, that people don’t buy the product, people buy from people. There is certainly a degree of truth in this, but to become a Category Manager from whom stakeholders wish to ‘purchase’ a plan, you need to learn and exhibit some key behaviours.
From a personal perspective, people prefer interacting with others who possess warm personalities. From a business perspective, professionals have a greater degree of respect for those who display a toughness in their convictions. Marrying the two together is a crucial skill to develop when putting forward a Category Management plan.
It is imperative to the long-term success of a project that when a plan is signed off, all parties are happy. Being warm, but soft in convictions can lead to the Category Manager being stripped of many of their proposals and working from a plan which leaves them unhappy. Being cold and tough in convictions comes over as aggressive and can lead to stakeholders feeling harried and ultimately troubled by an ‘approved’ plan.
The ‘sweet spot’ as it were, is to develop an approach that exudes warmth and congeniality whilst remaining tough on the core elements of the plan being presented. Such a behavioural skillset does not come easily. To achieve it takes time and practice. You’ll also need the necessary technical skills to accompany your style and behaviours. Our advice for any budding Category Manager is to create a five-year plan based on an assessment of your current technical skills, and outline how you intend to improve over time. More importantly still, identifying what experiences you will need to develop the skillset and behaviours most effectively.