On Better Business Negotiation with Suppliers and Clients (Don’t Forget Empathy)

Spend Matters welcomes another guest post from Santosh Reddy of GEP.

Every quarter, our company has a guest speaker talk to us about a variety of topics – all with roots in inspiration, innovation, and community. This quarter our speaker was Nimesh Patel, or Nimo to his friends. Nimo’s message was quite simple: spread love through your acts of kindness, compassion, inclusion, and empathy. While there were many thoughts that flew through my mind while hearing him speak, I found myself wondering how I could apply this in my negotiations.

I am expanding negotiations to include discussions with suppliers and clients (internal and external). What can I possibly do to include the elements I mentioned above with the equation used in my negotiations?

Kindness: I figured I really did not have to do much in terms of kindness. Just being able to create time, listen to the other party, and accommodate certain requests (like the time and place of a meeting) can go a long way in creating good camaraderie with the other party. While meeting at a place of their choosing might not always provide the best environment if you are going for hard commercial negotiations, there are other things you could accommodate them on instead.

Compassion and inclusion: Again, getting things done tops my list. Vendors might be waiting for responses or updates regarding bids they participated in or the negotiations that they just took part in, often causing this to affect their off work hours as well. Your direct reports might be working hard to meet deadlines that you set for them. You might be working hard to meet deadlines set by your manager. In each of these cases, communicating with the other party and providing a few reassuring updates can help with the other person’s motivation and general happiness. You could provide an update on the bid or negotiation and offer a more detailed explanation rather than just delegating work. Asking for an explanation of the work from your manager lets you know just what needs to be done but can also help you figure out how to contribute to efficiency and find out if there’s anything else that can be done.

Empathy: This was tough. If you are in purchasing, you might not know how a salesperson feels. But I don’t mind knowing about the salesperson’s family and personal life while being friendly, at least while the focus is not on commercial discussions. It is not so easy though, since every meeting with a new or existing vendor turns into some sort of selling or upselling pitch. It takes discipline on both parties to know when to stop discussing business. But once that is established, doing business becomes much easier (or difficult if the other party doesn’t get the sale). Empathy needs to go along with the maturity of the individuals – personal and professional.

How does any of this help? While these are concepts I will surely test, there are outcomes I think will be seen immediately – faster bid/negotiation process, better prices, stronger relationships with vendors – even for those who did not get much or any business.

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Voices (2)

  1. Mediation Practice Ireland:

    There are so many factors related to carrying out good negotiations such as kindness, compassion and empathy as mentioned. Using your BATNA to expand the pie are essential ways to negotiate effectively.

  2. chander sabharwal:

    Any negotiation, even with diverse vendors, must have as its background, a clean Corporate Image, one of integrity and fair business practice, and coupled with kindness, empathy and a good listening ear, can form a vibrant strategy. But we have to be honest and sincere – or is that asking for too much?

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