A backlog of procurement books to review – here’s The Negotiation Book, an excellent start

I'm ashamed to admit that I have a backlog of books I've been intending to read and then review here. So I'm going to make a real effort over the next few weeks to cover Jonathan O'Brien's Category Management in Purchasing (a big success, despite its premium pricing, and going to re-print I'm told), Public Sector Procurement by Stuart Emmett and Paul Wright and The Procurement Game Plan by Charles Dominick (of Next-Level Purchasing) and Soheila Lunney.

But we'll start today with The Negotiation Book by Steve Gates.

Gates is the founder of the Gap Partnership, now one of the UK's largest and most successful negotiation training firms. They work on both the sales and procurement side of negotiations, as well as with players in other types of negotiations (pay bargaining for instance). We'll come back to them in more detail separately anyway.

But back to the book – and it is extremely good, useful and interesting. It fills something of a gap in the market as well. There are a load of what you might call “pop” negotiation books around – how to influence people, how to get what you want etc. There are also more academic approaches – I find Essentials of Negotiation (Lewicki) very thorough and impressive, but at 300 pages of what is, at times, fairly academic material, it's not exactly an easy read.

In a different space, there is “Getting to Yes”, (Fisher and Ury) which is highly recommended. It's been my go-to guide for years, but it is stronger on genuine “win:win” negotiations than when it comes to more aggressive bargaining or how to deal with awkward people or issues. It’s a Deal by Steele, Russill and Murphy is another one worth a look, but is maybe showing its age a little.

Anyway, the beauty of Gates’ book is its breadth and thoroughness of approach, yet the way in which it is presented in a manner that is easy to understand and implement. He covers a whole range of negotiation situations, from pure tactical bargaining at one extreme to collaborative, partnership type negotiation at the other. He's very clear on the difference between negotiation and selling, and he points out that negotiating is morally neutral – a thought provoking concept, I must say, but I ended up agreeing with him. He also says “negotiating is uncomfortable”  – another interesting comment that stays with you long after you finish reading.

There is a focus on developing win:win situations – but that is put in the context of when this is the appropriate approach. And it isn't always going to be so. There are times when that doesn't work – if you're negotiating for a carpet in a North African market, win:win is not really a relevant concept!

One of the core ideas in the book is the “clock face”. It's a way of looking at the different types of negotiation and the various approaches that will work in different cases. It is a concept I really like and I'm sure will be helpful to many in the procurement world. So we'll come back in part 2 of this review and talk about it in more detail.

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