For those of us in the Procurement field, negotiating can be the most uncomfortable skill that we must master. Many factors play into a negotiation, and the considerations can easily become overwhelming. There is often so much on the line. The supplier relationship, the client relationship, and the sourcing initiative’s success can all ride on this one simple step.

I believe the skill of negotiating also has the most misconceptions attached to its name. Many think the best of the best dig a hard line in the sand and stick to it. The most successful negotiators are the sternest. But, when you are searching for a win-win, is this the most logical strategy? I do not believe so. Being aggressive towards your counterpart does not lead to successful partnerships. To give an inch and take a mile will not build a long-term relationship that promotes positive growth for your organization.

So, how do you deploy a negotiation that is successful, builds partnerships, and does not make you want to rip your hair out? Read on to see my favorite tips that I employ with my friends, family, clients, suppliers, and in long conversations with my dogs when they are being bad that they absolutely do not understand.

Do NOT Draw A Line in the Sand

As I stated before, the misconception of drawing an arbitrary line and sticking to it no matter what is not negotiating. Negotiating requires some form of compromise from all the parties included. Even with all the power, do you really want to crush a smaller sized supplier? Will the supplier want to help you when times get tough, like in the supply chain disruptions of 2020 due to COVID, if you just gauged them for a single sided contract? Instead, hear each party’s wants and needs and craft a deal that is mutually beneficial. It almost always creates a better agreement in the long term.

Business is Business, Kind Of…

In a negotiation, even when attempting to create a mutually beneficial deal, things can get heated. Remember that your negotiation counterpart is a representative of a larger organization. They have higher ups, in most cases, that are really making the decisions. So, what should you do? Separate the negotiation from the person. Just because they are not compromising on a specific piece of the sought-after agreement does not mean they are attacking you. The issue is YOU. You are too closely tied to your points and are projecting the same attachment on your counterpart. Talk it through and find out why they are not budging. Attempt to craft a solution that provides enough promises to get them to budge or ask for something in return elsewhere to even the playing field.

Kindness is Not Necessarily Good

If you are not a confrontational person that is often a positive. However, sometimes that can cripple you. Just because the goal is a mutually beneficial deal in your mind does not mean that it is in your counterpart’s mind. If you are too kind to objectively quantify your position and stick up for your reasoning, you can open yourself up to getting steamrolled. The lack of tact can lead to bad terms for you and portray that you can be taken advantage of. This will harm your future negotiations, as well. If you have sound reasoning, explain it until the supplier wholly understands. If you do not feel you can push back, get someone who will. Using your coworker’s skills is a benefit to the organization and there is nothing shameful about requiring help.

Require Objectivity and Objectivity Only

Finally, perhaps the most important tip I can offer is to keep negotiations objective. Subjectivity leads to the “drawing a line in the sand” type of negotiations in my first tip. It can also lead to a personal attachment to the items you are negotiating. If you do not think of objective reasons as to WHY compromise should take place, you are not crafting solutions. You are creating whimsical ideas and acting as if they are objective. There is no room for impulsive decision making in negotiating. Use logic, math, statistics, and hard data to provide actual reasoning as to why you want what you want. Use the same objective standard to provide solutions that simultaneously show how your offering gives the supplier what they want, as well. That is creating a true win-win situation.

Hopefully, employing these tips can aid you in more successful and less stressful negotiations. This step in the Procurement process does not have to be the worse. If done right, it can be an enjoyable way to build your rolodex of supplier contacts for future projects. Long lasting, very beneficial relationships can be built that put you and the supplier in an advantageous position within your market.

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Joseph Plank

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