Years ago, when I was first starting out in procurement, I confused the attention paid to me by suppliers as earned by me and a reflection of my personal worth.

That was, until my manager set me straight, reminding me that this attention, while flattering, was actually directed at the role I was playing and not me personally. That suppliers were simply wooing me to get my business.

That was an eye-opener — it made sense. After all that’s what I was doing, too. I was trying to get their business while growing my career and organization. I grew more discerning, looking beyond the talk for the real value my organization sought from staffing suppliers. And as my program evolved, I learned to value one trait in a supplier over flattery and expensive dinners. Brace yourself, I valued it even over cost.  That critical element is so hard to earn and significantly easier to lose: trustworthiness.

To be successful, your contingent workforce program needs suppliers you can trust will deliver what they say they will. Suppliers that will back up their promises with deed as well as account support staff who genuinely demonstrate understanding of the sometimes-tenuous role of a procurement person. But you need to do your part.

Be critical. And I don’t mean criticize. So many proposals would come across my desk promising huge efficiencies or vast improvements in cost or quality, but they rarely could match the outcome. With five suppliers each promising an additional 20% savings, you must wonder how they can turn a profit. The key is to look for realistic estimations of value with qualified assumptions. Will those hard numbers come to fruition, or will their competitor’s less aggressive ranges end up being the more likely outcome? At your end, review RFP responses critically, because what sounds too good to be true often is.

Be clear. As you are preparing your RFP, and then when reviewing responses, be honest about your needs. Make sure any job type being included is clearly spelled out. If it’s a niche, any statements of work thoroughly vetted. If you aren’t sure what it is your company needs, how can your supplier deliver value?

Play fair. Just as I tell suppliers not to expect you to be able to spend money without a second thought, don’t expect the moon from your supplier, either. You may run a multimillion-dollar program, but that doesn’t mean you have a blank check to spend on labor. Likewise, your supplier can’t hand you the sun and moon at no or low cost. They are answerable to their CEOs, legal departments and their stakeholders. Take, for example, that indemnity agreement your legal department is demanding they sign. Perhaps you should listen when they explain they won’t sign away on things over which they have no control. It would be a good idea for you to review the indemnification agreement against the one that your company signs for its customers to get a sense of what you are asking them to do. Or review one your supplier considers fair.

Both ways. Trust goes both ways, and each party to a relationship must do its part. My team and I frequently advise staffing firm professionals on how to earn your trust. For you to grow your career and organization, the real value lies in you communicating your organizations’ needs to the supplier. Your vendors business’ is dependent on you saying yes.  As a CW professional, it is your responsibility to make clear that you are saying yes because of what the vendor is bringing to the table.

Separate you the person from the role you fill. The reward for doing this is that you gain the respect of your suppliers who will go out of their way to elevate their offerings thereby increasing the value to you and the ecosystem. Everyone wins.

Successful sales are a function of being honest, knowing your audience, understanding your limitations and being aware of your unconscious biases and assumptions to deal with what is as opposed to what you want it to be.  Following the above tips can set you and your CW team up for continued success.