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When I first attended a negotiation training workshop almost 20 years ago, I quickly discovered that only a small part of any outcome is determined by predictable factors like relative power and relationship history.
In fact, the result is mainly driven by thorough preparation, acute situational awareness and self-control.
While some people may be lucky enough to have these capabilities naturally, for most it can take the insights of professional training, as well as years of commercial experience, to develop.
So, what does it take to call yourself a professional procurement negotiator?
There are seven key things buyers need to think about in order for them to reach a level of excellence:
Know your sourcing strategy, market, suppliers, people, numbers, your opening positions and your trading positions before you go into the room. This has almost unlimited benefits and so if you only follow one tip make it this one. Don’t be tempted to try and ’wing it’. If the deal is too big or too complex to be automated or auctioned, then it deserves professional preparation.
Ask good open questions, probe the answers and listen more than you talk. Look out for signals and opportunities that sellers give you as they talk.
This is not about you, it’s not about the other party, and it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about the result you need to achieve and the most effective strategy to achieve it.
Have the sensitivity to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective. This operates at three levels:
Remain calm and controlled in difficult situations. Be prepared to apply pressure, even when it becomes uncomfortable. Stay silent for a little bit longer than expected and many suppliers will start to negotiate with themselves. Make sure you’re comfortable having tension in the room. Test your counterpart’s position and push for more than you think is possible. If you’re being threatened, stay calm. Do not be put off by tactics, they are just part of the game. Call out the tactics, disarm them and move on.
There is a good moral case for integrity in negotiation, but, further than this, empty threats, hollow promises and inconsistent statements will be exposed quickly, and can damage the credibility of your business.
There are many elements to having a good technique in negotiations including:
Once buyers can tick these off the list, confidence will quickly grow. And confidence is, of course, the final aspect of getting negotiations right.
Angus McIntosh is associate director at Total Negotiation, the global negotiation consultancy. His previous roles include being CPO at Beiersdorf and VP of petcare procurement at Mars
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.