How A Skilled Negotiator Prepares


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By Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Picture of Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Are You A Well-Prepared Negotiator?

A skilled negotiator knows the benefits of preparation. Here are four ways a skilled negotiator prepares:

  1. The Skilled Negotiator Knows His Counterpart. Purchasing professionals often fail in negotiations due to being caught off-guard by the experience and/or aggressiveness of the supplier's negotiator. So always learn about your counterpart before you begin negotiations. Insist on a phone conversation prior to the negotiation. You can tell the supplier that the purpose of the call is to shore up logistical details like time, location, and length of your meeting. And do shore them up. But also find out more about your counterpart through 'small talk.' How long has she been selling the product or service? Is he an aggressive personality? Then, adjust your tactics for that type of counterpart.
  2. The Skilled Negotiator Uses Deep Logic. Logic can be a powerful negotiating tool. But a skilled supplier negotiator will anticipate your logic and shoot it down. For example, let's say you were buying used aircraft parts. You may say to the supplier who bid $3,000 for a part "I always see these parts selling for $2,000, so your price isn't fair." That might be good logic, but the supplier may say "But those parts are in 'repaired' condition rather than 'overhauled' condition and don't have the same warranty." If you didn't go deep with your logic and consider all possible supplier responses, you likely have no more ammunition for persuasion.
  3. The Skilled Negotiator Controls The Meeting. Salespeople are taught to control meetings. In a negotiation, this disarms you and prevents you from reaching your negotiation goals. Don't let the supplier control the meeting. Either present an agenda or prepare a set of probing questions to lead the conversation. And when you've achieved the results you're looking for, give signals that the meeting is over (e.g., stand up, say "Thank you for your time in meeting with me today," etc.)
  4. The Skilled Negotiator Knows What The Supplier Will Ask & How To Answer. At the outset of negotiations, suppliers want to learn if they can earn your business with their current proposals or if they have to improve them. Be prepared for their questions and know how you're going to answer them. What the supplier wants to learn is:
    • Are you the decision maker?
    • Do you have the budget to pay the current price?
    • How quickly do you need to make a decision?
    • Are there other suppliers that you're courting?

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