The Negotiation Book by Steve Gates – a must-read for procurement professionals

We mentioned our backlog of books to review recently here and commented briefly on The Negotiation Book by Steve Gates,  founder of the Gap Partnership, the leading negotiation training and advisory firm.

To summarise our thoughts  - it’s highly recommended. I like the blend of hard, technical thinking about negotiation planning, strategy and tactics alongside the recognition that negotiation requires us to think hard about our own behaviours and the way we act within the negotiation context.

The concept of the “clock face” is a good aide memoire used throughout the book to describe the different types of negotiation. As Professor Andrew Cox would say, appropriateness is everything in business, and in procurement, and the clock face is really all about behaving in an appropriate manner to maximise your success depending on the type of negotiation.

For instance, if you’re at one of the “early” points on the clock face, and you’re into bartering or basic bidding processes, then some advanced negotiation techniques are worse than useless. As you move towards considering “problem solving” and “relationship building” negotiation, as Gates puts it, where you’re jointly trying to “grow the size of the cake” rather than just argue about how to divide it, then the clever stuff should kick in.

Gates describes the “ten negotiation traits”, which include (for example) self-discipline, assertiveness, curiosity and humility. They are the behavioural qualities a good negotiator needs – and this section is the best description of this aspect of negotiation I have seen, as he explains why they are important and how you can develop the skills.

He then gets into “the fourteen behaviours that make a difference”. These are really the general “rules” for successful negotiators – so they include points such as “do not allow your sense of fairness to influence behaviour” . That’s an extremely interesting one in itself, and something we could debate at length – perhaps another time. Others are perhaps more obvious .“Plan and prepare using all information available”. But all fourteen get covered in some detail, again full of sensible and useful advice.

There are also sections on emotion, on authority and empowerment, and then a long list of “tactics and values”, with very practical ways to handle negotiation issues. The final chapter is on what Gates calls (and I agree) “the most fundamental element of negotiation” – planning and preparation.

All the way through, there is an emphasis on both what we might call technical negotiation techniques / strategies AND personal behaviours. It also combines some solid intellectual property with practical advice.  Ultimately, it’s bringing together those different elements that makes the book so satisfying and useful.

And that makes it the best book on negotiation I’ve seen since Getting to Yes – and for most practitioners, I’d suggest it is more useful even than that seminal work.  A 100% recommendation.

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Voices (3)

  1. Andrew Moorhouse:

    Does it have anything on Anchoring? Dr. Max Bazerman at Harvard suggests 97% of the time in a price negotiation, procurement profesionals use an anchor such as, “I can get it cheaper elsewhere.” Brutal but effective.

    1. stephen ashcroft:

      Andrew: Has anyone asked Dr Bazerman what the buyer should say when the supplier’s representative responds by saying “well, you should get it from elswhere then”? Brutal but effective.

      1. Bill Dred:

        Oooff…that hurt…

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