Collaboration Wins: Achieving Cost Savings and Supplier Harmony

The Situation

Since 1952, Whelen Engineering has been a leading American manufacturer creating advanced warning systems for the automotive, aviation, and mass notification sectors. Operating from two modern facilities in Connecticut and New Hampshire, the company employs 1,500 skilled workers dedicated to developing crucial life-saving technologies for front-line professionals.

Yet the company faced a harsh truth during COVID-19: their informal supplier agreements weren’t enough to weather such a storm, especially as the company was expanding quickly. Recognizing the need for change, the Director of Strategic Sourcing spearheaded an initiative to transform these “handshake” agreements into structured, strategic partnerships to reinforce supply chain resilience without compromising the family-owned company’s deeply ingrained culture and long-standing relationships; some of which span over 40 years. 

The goal was clear: strengthen ties with suppliers through collaboration, while maintaining quality and continuity in challenging times

The SNI Solution

Whelen sought a strategic edge for its procurement team through enhanced negotiation skills. However, the team lacked formal negotiation training, relying primarily on on-the-job learning. So, recognizing the gap, Whelen partnered with Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI) to cultivate a more nuanced approach to negotiation that focused not just on the mechanics of procurement but also on the finesse of strategic sourcing and the art of saying no without burning bridges. 

After thoroughly evaluating competitors, Whelen chose SNI for its customization, facilitation quality, procurement experience, and proven track record which perfectly aligned with the company’s specific needs. Through two training sessions, SNI imparted practical negotiation techniques focused on collaboration rather than confrontation while resonating with Whelen’s family-oriented culture and its goals.

The Impact

Whelen’s procurement team was fully engaged throughout SNI’s training program, showing complete immersion in the exercises, unlike typical workshops that often fail to sustain participant interest. The enthusiasm and appreciation were palpable after the first session, with team members feeling optimistic and empowered. In fact, until this session, many never even realized they “could say no” without feeling pressured to meet unrealistic objectives.  

Following the initial session’s success, SNI conducted a follow-up session to bolster negotiation confidence through a personalized, interactive approach rather than standard presentations. Along with additional reinforcement resources to further enhance their learning journey, this method proved effective, enhancing the team’s retention skills and ability to confidently apply new negotiation strategies in real-world scenarios. The team’s newfound skills led to better engagement, practical negotiation skills, and the confidence to use their new skills in real-world situations.

The Result

Whelen quickly saw the benefits of investing in SNI’s negotiation training, achieving about 2.5% savings in spending within just six months—a significant financial gain when adjusted for inflation. The procurement team’s newly enhanced confidence in negotiating cost avoidance and strategic sourcing marked a considerable improvement. The training sessions also stressed the importance of preparation and knowing one’s assets, objectives, and boundaries. Effective communication with suppliers and leveraging team strengths—operations and engineering focusing on technical discussions while procurement experts manage financials—also resulted from the successful training.

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