You simply can’t escape it – Pokémon Go is a giant phenomenon!

First, let me be upfront with you.  I have not played the game and I really don’t know much about Pokémon other than Pikachu.  That being said I, like most of you, have been surrounded by those playing it just about everywhere I go.

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And, it got me thinking – as we do here at the NLPA – is there anything that Procurement can glean from Pokémon Go?

So I did a little reading up on the game and the answer is (maybe surprisingly)… Yes!


“Gotta Catch ‘Em All”

So while playing, trainers (players) visit “Pokestops” to pick up items that can then be used to help lure wild Pokémon so they can catch them. (The goal being to “Catch ‘Em All!)

In Procurement, the Request for Proposal (RFP) can be used to lure as many potential suppliers for a given need as possible. During a recent NLPA webinar: “Tips For Writing Better RFP’s,” Charles Dominick, SPSM3 discussed how poorly written, confusing, and/or overwhelming RFPs can lead many suppliers to not even bother responding. Without adequate response there’s little competition. And that means your chances of securing the best supplier at the best pricing are pretty slim. Pretty bad lure, huh?

So, now is the time to make a “Procurement Stop” and review your RFP templates.  They are a great tool if you write them well and use them appropriately.  You need to ensure that they are attracting as many qualified respondents as possible, otherwise – why bother?

Not sure what you should be including in your RFP template? Charles shared the 10 critical ingredients of good RFPs in the webinar.  Both the replay and a sample RFP template are available in the NLPA Library.


Developing the Right Skills for Success 

According to Wikipedia, when trying to capture Pokémon: “Factors in the success rate of capture include the right force, the right time and the type of Poké Ball used.”

One particular area that comes right to mind for me is procurement negotiation. Isn’t the success rate affected by the amount of force you use, the timing of your negotiation, and which tactics you use? Sure, previous experience will help you to learn which tactics result in success, just like in the game.

However, if you don’t have experience to draw on what can you do? In the game you’ll miss out on catching a Pokémon, no big deal. (Okay, it’s probably a big deal to most players.)  In a procurement negotiation, however, you could be missing out on negotiating the best deals possible.  So, that’s where training comes in to play. In the NLPA’s course “Powerful Negotiation for Successful Buying” you’ll learn when and how much pressure to exert in negotiations (force), how to prepare for negotiations (timing), and exactly what to say in 18 common negotiation situations (tactics).  That training will set you up to catch the best deals possible from your suppliers.


Get Out!

A trainer can’t play Pokémon Go by sitting inside in the same place.  To catch Pokémon they have to get out and walk around. The Pokémon won’t come to them, rather they have to go to the Pokemon. (This explains why I saw people wandering aimlessly through the park with their heads buried in their phones…)

So, let me ask you – when was the last time you visited some of your most important suppliers? Sure, phone and email have provided means of keeping in closer and more frequent contact with your suppliers.  But, there’s no substitution for having your “boots on the ground” to strengthen your supplier relationships and “catch” any possible issues.  It’s a good practice to visit your most critical suppliers on a consistent basis. So, get out of the office already and go visit your suppliers in the real-world!

If you’re having trouble finding time to visit your suppliers, here’s a tip. Many of the attendees of previous NLPA Conferences had visited suppliers near the conference city either before or after the event. It was an easy way to get some face time with vendors without making an additional trip. So if you’re already making a trip to a certain city, see which suppliers may be nearby.


So, there you go three quick procurement lessons I gleaned from Pokémon Go- and I didn’t even play it!  At the NLPA we always encourage our members to think outside the box, so start looking at the world around you and think, “How can I apply this to procurement?”  I bet you’ll find some interesting and useful lessons!

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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