Top 10 characteristics of a high calibre category manager


High calibre category managers – the top 10 characteristics

By Simon Brown |

We believe category management is “the strategic end to end process for buying goods and services that aligns business goals and requirements with supply market capability.  It has the ability to transform the long-term value achieved from an organisation’s supplier spend and drives reduced cost, reduced risk, improved revenue, improved service and ultimately better business performance”. 

Category management can only really be successful if it involves cross functional teams of procurement staff and relevant internal business stakeholders working towards a common objective. It often requires working in creative workshop sessions to challenge each other with all core team members equally incentivised and targeted to achieve the same outcome. This builds joint responsibility and accountability for the strategy and its deliverables.

In order to be successful and become a high calibre category manager, we believe there are ten key characteristics:

  1. Judgment: know when enough data has been gathered or prioritising which of the many options identified are to be recommended
  2. Commercialism:  ability to understand the cost-benefit analysis of potential returns versus the cost of time and resource to deliver the strategy
  3. Selling the vision:  ability to create a vision for the category and win hearts and minds that this is a category worth putting some effort into
  4. Curiosity:  ability to search tirelessly for insights across a range of factors when you do not know what you are looking for
  5. Bravery:  willingness to take a risk and do something different i.e. not simply running the tender process that everyone has always done before
  6. Leadership: have the belief and skill to lead a cross functional team with “advocates” and “sceptics” through the category management process and deliver results
  7. Programme & Change Management: ability to manage the high level and detailed plans whilst also dealing with change management challenges along the way
  8. Creativity: to enable the team to think beyond the status quo and to think ‘outside the box’ using techniques that open the mind to new possibilities
  9. Collaboration: to find ways of harnessing the combined experience, skills and ideas from the core category team to deliver the ultimate solution

Put simply, the best category managers are not simply applying good sense and sound judgment in the practical application of managing categories. They are highly skilled, well-experienced individuals who will need these ten characteristics to be a success in category management.

Further reading

Blog post: Build category management coaching capability

About Simon Brown


30 years procurement experience in line management and
consulting roles.
Previous employment: British Aerospace, British Airways, QP Group
Education: MBA, London Business School. BA (Hons) Business Studies.
CIPS: member