As someone who has been guilty for creating more than his fair share of "top" lists over the years, I should not make fun of others who do the same. Still, the concept has certainly been overplayed, no matter how valuable the advice. However, if you can get past the clichéd approach, there are some decent pieces of advice in a recent Top 15 Negotiation Pitfalls list from Supply Chain Digest. What are my favorites from the list? Mixing contentious behavior with problem solving is certainly a top one. These approaches "will kill the problem-solving effort and erode trust." To avoid them, the author suggests "separate necessary contentious exchanges by assigning them to one person ('bad cop'), while a 'good cop' works on problem solving, or schedule separate meetings for the contentious issues if you are negotiating alone."
Another useful tip is to avoid taking an over-aggressive stance early in a negotiation as "this turns-off the opposing negotiator, so, if you are prone to this, let others open negotiations or practice toning down your opening positions and statements." In the world of e-sourcing, I've seen reverse auctions construed by suppliers as overly aggressive -- especially when used before a relationship is established. What are some tips around this? First, it's most important to explicitly spell out that further non-price vetting will occur after an event to allow suppliers the chance to differentiate on factors not in an RFQ (e.g., quality systems, on-time histories, etc.) It's also especially important in the case of sourcing in certain geographies (e.g., China and Mexico) to invest the time to get to know the suppliers that you know will make a shortlist before an actual event, if it's at all possible. A few days spent in relationship building activities with new suppliers in these markets will go a long way to ensure a supplier enters a negotiation with the sharpest possible pencil.
- Jason Busch