Supply Chain Management — Why Aristotle Is More Important than Kraljic (Part 2)

This is the second part to Sigi Osagie's thought-provoking article - part 1 was published yesterday. Sigi is a leading expert on effectiveness in Procurement & Supply Chain Management. He is the author of the acclaimed book “Procurement Mojo” and can be contacted on

Following on from yesterday’s post on Aristotle’s teachings on persuasion and communication and how they are vital for every one of us, these are the three kinds of proof that persuasive people use:

  • Ethos is about the ethical dimensions of the speaker – your character, integrity, credibility, trustworthiness, sincerity and reputation are all key factors which impact your persuasiveness. Aristotle’s assertion that, “We believe good men more fully and more readily than others” has stood the test of scientific research. But, remember, it is the perception of the target audience that counts; if your stakeholder perceives you as credible and sincere, you’re much more likely to be able to win them over. You can influence that perception by connecting with them at a personal level.
  • Pathos pertains to the emotions stirred up in the target audience. Persuasion and alignment may come about through the listener, when the communication arouses their emotions. Inspiration, happiness, anger, hope, fear, pity, satisfaction and so on are all emotions we each feel, including your individual stakeholders. By appealing to stakeholders’ emotions you can be a lot more persuasive than otherwise. To do this successfully you must have empathy – you must be able to see things from their perspective, hence understand their feelings.
  • Logos relates to the substance of the communication – the actual words or language used and the logic of the message. Quotations, analogies, facts, stories, data or statistics are great examples of different ways of tapping into your stakeholders’ reasoning so that your communication makes sense to them. Avoid traditional purchasing jargon that often makes many stakeholder's eyes glaze over.

The ability to blend all three types of proof is a critical aptitude for persuasive communication. If you understand the motivations behind individual stakeholder's attitudes and behaviours, and you can communicate persuasively, you will find your capacity to win them over greatly increased.

Look around you and identify people who you consider to be effective operators, those who are really skilled at influencing others, and you’ll see some common traits in how they operate. Effective operators are always persuasive communicators. They leverage their persuasive abilities by applying insights on human psychology which reflect universal principles. We can all learn to adopt these approaches, including the following;

  • Open your mind, expand your thinking and grasp a fundamental truth: that people’s attitudes, behaviours and decisions are not driven entirely by logic or reason. Emotions are always part of the mix, usually beneath the surface. You can leverage this by establishing an emotional connection with your stakeholders. Don’t be fooled into thinking effective communication is simply about putting forward a logical argument. It isn’t. Logic matters, but it’s only one aspect of effective persuasion. How you present your case is as important as the underlying logic therein. So stay attuned to your stakeholders at an emotional level so you can moderate the tone and intensity of your argument accordingly.
  • Always remember that credibility matters. But your opinion is less important than your stakeholder's perception of your credibility. You establish greater credibility – perceived and actual – through sensible opinions, shrewdness, proficiency, tactfulness and harmonic relationships. By making the effort to listen to your stakeholders and take on board their opinions, you are demonstrating empathy and enhancing your credibility. The more stakeholders trust you to understand their view and consider their best interests, the more likely they are to align to you. Rather than trying to state your position with a hard sell, confined by your own perspective, try to find common ground. Try to sell your agenda in a manner that highlights the mutual benefits; you will elicit a more positive perception and greater engagement.
  • Build your position and communicate your ideas by using appropriate language and evidence. Analogies, anecdotes and examples are effective ways of supplementing data to bring your ideas alive and strengthen your case. But remember that your stakeholders’ opinions are important, so be prepared to give and take. Optimal outcomes are often achieved through compromise. Demonstrating flexibility can sometimes be an effective route to appeal to stakeholders persuasively.

Aristotle enlightens us that persuasion is one of the key forces at the heart of human interactions. Procurement people can greatly enhance the effectiveness of their stakeholder management efforts by mastering this skill.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to develop and hone such abilities. And ability often grows with usage. Or, put another way, we learn best by doing; or at least trying. Thankfully, the modern-day workplace provides ample opportunities for you to try out your persuasive abilities. As well as tuning in to the corporate buzz and organisational dynamics, the work environment compels us to contend with all sorts of characters. Our stakeholders are individuals with different personalities, some more agreeable than others. The greater the range of personalities you can deal with effectively, the better your chances of successful stakeholder engagements.

Being able to gauge individual stakeholders’ personalities allows you to tailor your interaction style accordingly. Learn to recognise, for instance, those who prefer you to get to the point quickly, in a logical and impersonal manner; or those who prefer to explore ideas and analyse options with resourcefulness and ingenuity; or those who prefer a lot of camaraderie. The more you can adapt your communication style to an individual stakeholder’s personality, the more they’ll develop an affinity for you and your ideas.

Mastering persuasive communication is vital for success in the purchasing job. You might have the highest level of expertise with the Kraljic model and other technical tools and methodologies, but if you’re unable to align stakeholders to the Procurement agenda and secure buy-in you will fail. Our ability to incorporate Aristotle’s wise words into how we go about the purchasing job greatly impacts the level of success we achieve at embedding Procurement in the fabric of the enterprise and boosting our personal mojos.

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Voices (4)

  1. Sigi Osagie:

    Well said, Ian! I love the simplicity of your point.

    It’s certainly never purely about logic – emotions are always at play, usually beneath the surface.

    Thanks for the comment.

  2. Ian H:

    Anyone who thinks logic beats emotion hasnt been married

  3. Sigi Osagie:

    Thanks for the warm sentiments, Pierre – I’m flattered.

    I’d be keen to hear your feedback when you’ve read “Procurement Mojo”.

  4. Pierre:

    Sigi, bravo! I love the use of Aristotle. My dad Dimitri was a Greek immigrant from Alexandria (I actually was born Michellepis, not Mitchell), so my world was filled with an endless stream of Greek proverbs, straight out of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

    Having self-awareness around Pathos and Ethos really can help ‘sell’ what you’re trying to do (in a good way). If a stakeholder thinks you’re only out to reduce pricing to make your bonus, then the rigor of your n-step process is meaningless and you’ll be relegated to being the dinosaur in the Dilbert Cartoon:

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