Born or Made? The Negotiator

There’s a question which is often floated in discussions about negotiation – are great negotiators born or made?

It is true that some people seem to have more affinity to some parts of negotiation – we all know the natural dealer, happy to deal and trade, to take or make a position, to rattle the cages of the opposition; but that is only one facet of negotiation. A real negotiator has built a whole range of styles and techniques to suite the particular position that they find themselves in, with a range of short and long term approaches aimed at creating a favorable position.

If we look around the world at all the negotiation courses available, it is clear that ‘making’ a negotiator is a considerable industry and we have to believe that there is a good level of effect from this. Of course, the effort in training negotiators is focussed in the world of sales, and many of the courses and techniques are aimed at helping us sell better. That is of course fine, but the purchasing teams need some help as well.

In fact, once we start to analyze how sales are made, it becomes clear really quickly that there is a lot of the business engaged in delivering a negotiation with any particular supplier. However, a lot of the approaches used by the buying side are in the ‘unconscious incompetent’ style – they don’t even know that they are doing it wrong. (For more on unconscious incompetence, see here).

So, we need to get the business to recognize a need to be conciously competent at negotiation. We need to make sure that there is a recognition that the organization as a whole needs to be skilled in the art of negotiation, and be prepared for the things that can happen.

This suggests we need an approach at a high level, to recognize and raise up the overall skill level in negotiation for all those facing suppliers.

Even better, we could get the organization to adopt a common approach to negotiation
which allows different people to be well versed in the same language, and to be able to act in formal and informal teams in an effective way.

If we get great at this, as an organization, we will be able to present a formidable, linked and clear approach to our suppliers. We will all be working for the same set of shareholders – not mistakenly representing the suppliers shareholders by mistake. As teh skills become embedded in the organization, the need to condition suppliers, to have clear stories we tell, to have agreed approaches on concession, will all work in our favour. Indeed, we will take the mystique out of negotiation and have an organization where a winning business differentiator is our whole business approach to negotiation.

To do this, we need an approach, we need training and we need coaching, all built into a cross business competence in negotiation. That is making a negotiator, not hoping that the skills exist.

You can read a lot about negotiation in the book, Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals by Jonathan O’Brien.

Written by Mark Hubbard for Positive Purchasing Ltd
© Positive Purchasing Ltd 2014, all right reserved