How Good are Your Procurement Negotiating Skills?

I am sure you have met folks in procurement who are very confident in their negotiating skills.

Their confidence may be based on some big wins or maybe they are willing to employ tactics other people may not be comfortable using.

In my experience, the best negotiators utilize the same process every time.

I don’t mean that they are robots.

They can adapt to the situation, so they stay in control.

This is true even when they are faced with people that are demanding or those that hide their cards.

What can you do to improve your negotiating skills?

In last week’s post I recommended using better questions to get at the root of stakeholder’s issues.

The same approach can elevate your negotiating success when combined with other tactics I will review.

I believe that you win or lose in the first 3 minutes of your meeting or call.

You may save the day at the end like Tom Brady seems to always do but if you start off on the right foot you will likely avoid many common pitfalls.

I like to set a professional tone by outlining what is to be accomplished.

I cover:

  • Time
  • Agenda
  • Outcomes

As I cover each part, I ask for their agreement. This is critical because too many people make assumptions based on experience. Unfortunately, assumptions can only hurt you.

Let me cover each point so you get the flavor.

  • Time – I believe we had about an hour allocated for today’s call, does that sill work for you?
  • Agenda – I would like to understand what you want to accomplish in the next hour. I expect you will have some questions for me and I will likely ask you some challenging questions. Are you okay with that?
  • Outcomes – At the end of the call, if you are not satisfied with our discussion then you can let us know that we may not be the right fit for you and we can part friends. On the other hand, if you are comfortable, we can plan the next steps in the process. Does that sound reasonable?

If you have never used this approach, I encourage you to do so. You are likely to be surprised by the response you receive.

Even when I have met with very demanding people, the response has always been positive.

There are many subtle parts of this approach that will increase your success:

  • Asking for permission – people like and respect that
  • Inviting questions – demonstrates you are prepared
  • Giving permission to part friends is empowering and disarms the other party
  • Expecting them to want to move forward as a final thought plants a good seed

Does that sound reasonable? This is very powerful. People have a very hard time telling you that something is not reasonable. No one has ever told me that it was unreasonable. A few have suggestions and that is good because it demonstrates that they were engaged.

There are a couple other recommendations to add:

Never answer an unasked question. “Your Price is Too High.” This is not a question. Most people will respond by defending the price or listing all the notable features and benefits of their product or service.

This response assumes you know why they think your price is too high and that is unlikely.

A better strategy is to respond with a question that will help you uncover the significant issues.

“When you say our price is too high, what does that mean?”

In almost all situations, they will list the reasons why they think your price is high and then you can respond as appropriate. It may take some additional probing questions to find out all the issues, but you will be on the road to success.

Last thought – don’t be afraid to walk away.

If the other side is squeezing you so much that it doesn’t make sense to do business, thank them and move on. This approach has helped me bring some unrealistic clients and prospects back to reality. It has also helped me avoid taking on unprofitable business.

Ask better questions, make changes and 2018 will be your best year ever.

Action Step: If you are uncertain where to start the process of change, a procurement professional like myself can provide guidance and expertise to help your organization achieve the results you want.

If you want to go explore this topic in greater detail, please contact me. I invite you to request 30-minute discovery conversation. In my experience the next step will be apparent at the end of the call. I never assume that what I have to offer will be right for everyone, so don’t expect a sales pitch. You can reach me at 973-936-9672.

If you would like to know more ways to reduce costs without changing the way you do business, simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact information and the best time to reach you.

You Won’t Drift to Success©

Commit to taking the next step.

Until Next Time, I Wish You Great Success in Your Business and in Your Life

Mike Jeffries