Category Management Principles

Category Management Principles

At Barkers we seek to promote the benefits of category management with our clients, with CIPS to the broader profession, with blogs and whitepapers intended to share our knowledge. 

The concept of category management originates from marketing, where managers had to decide whether to organise their sales team by product, geographically or by value/risk (CIPS: Category management). As a business process category management was first developed in the USA for supermarket retailers.  Today the approach incorporates elements of business improvement processes and change management. It generally requires the active participation of stakeholders, functions and individuals across the company (O’Brien, 2009).

Values and Goals

Our behaviours are primarily driven by motivation to achieve self-worth.  Self-worth can come from one’s self (being valued by yourself) or others (being valued by others).  This can be simplified by saying we are all motivated by a concern for three factors:

  • People – wanting to help others
  • Performance – wanting to achieve results
  • Process – wanting to establish order

It is in the pursuit of one, or a combination of these factors that people achieve their all-important sense of self-worth.

Within a business context, your senior stakeholders will set procurement goals in accordance with a broader set of corporate goals. However, they will be coloured and delivered in a style reflective of their personal values and strengths. It is imperative that you learn which of these three primary factors influence their thought processes and decision-making.

It is with this knowledge that you can build a plan which truly resonates with your stakeholders’ values and stand a greater chance of a successful outcome.

Behaviours and Skills

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.

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