From Casual Deals to Strategic Steals: Whelen’s Sourcing Team Transformation

Mark Morenz faced a big challenge at Whelen Engineering, a company that, since 1952, has developed essential warning systems and crucial life-saving technologies for front-line professionals. As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, it exposed the vulnerability of Whelen’s informal supplier agreements, particularly when the company was experiencing rapid growth. 

The old way of handshake deals was no longer sufficient. So Morenz, as the Director of Strategic Sourcing, recognized the urgent need to transition to formalized partnerships to sustain the company’s expansion and bolster its supply chain’s resilience and reliability.

Taking the helm, Morenz set about transforming Whelen’s approach to supplier relations. The company, rooted in family values with some supplier ties dating back over 40 years, required a delicate balance to strengthen these connections without undermining its long-standing culture and commitment to quality. That’s why Morenz knew it was time for a formal training program.  

Strengthening Whelen’s Negotiation Skills

Despite the team’s reliance on on-the-job experience rather than formal training, Morenz understood the importance of a strategic negotiation approach that would secure stronger partnerships and better outcomes.

Choosing the Right Training Partner

Morenz had previously attended programs on strategic sourcing and negotiation with some of Shapiro Negotiations Institute’s (SNI) competitors, so he knew what to look for. After assessing several programs, Morenz decided on SNI because of its customization, facilitation quality, procurement experience, and proven track record which would mesh well with Whelen’s goals and family-oriented culture. 

Implementing Practical Strategies

SNI delivered two tailored training sessions to Whelen’s procurement team, focusing on collaborative techniques emphasizing strategic sourcing finesse and the delicate art of “saying no” without burning bridges. These sessions gave the team practical skills to improve their negotiation ability and build strong, enduring supplier relationships that could handle rapid company growth.

The Success of SNI’s Interactive Sessions for Whelen’s Procurement Team

During SNI’s engaging training sessions, Whelen’s procurement team experienced a transformative journey. Unlike typical, cookie-cutter, slideshow-heavy workshops, SNI’s interactive and personalized approach led to palpable enthusiasm and a notable boost in negotiation skills and confidence to tackle real-world challenges with vigor.

A Break from Conventional Training

Typically, training sessions can struggle to captivate attendees throughout, but SNI’s sessions were different. All team members were fully engaged from the beginning, displaying palpable enthusiasm and appreciation. This intense involvement was a testament to the session’s relevance and impact, as noted by Morenz, who remarked on the team’s newfound realization that they could assertively say no to unrealistic demands without jeopardizing their objectives. In Morenz’s words, the team left the session feeling “pumped” and “appreciative.”

Building on Success with Personalized Training

Following the initial session’s success, SNI conducted a follow-up session to reinforce confidence among Whelen’s team. In addition to providing valuable reinforcement resources to support the learning journey, this session abandoned the typical PowerPoint-laden approach for a more personalized, interactive format that included one-on-one coaching. Morenz was particularly impressed by the facilitator and a customized memory exercise adapted from sales training to improve retention skills. The result? A marked increase in both the team’s negotiation skills and their overall confidence to apply these new strategies effectively in real-world scenarios.

Real Results: Whelen’s Smart Bet on Negotiation Training

Whelen Engineering’s investment in negotiation training with SNI quickly translated into concrete financial benefits and stronger team dynamics. Within just six months, the training led to a significant financial gain when adjusted for inflation.  

Morenz points out that preparation was key. Understanding the company’s assets, goals, and limits has been fundamental to its success. He emphasized how strategic communication and clearly defined roles have streamlined their processes. Now, with operations and engineering focusing on the technical details and procurement handling the financials, the team operates with renewed confidence and efficiency in negotiations, turning these new skills into everyday wins.

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