Sourcing Negotiations & Political Debates

PurchTips edition #266


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What Negotiation Lessons Did The Debates Teach?

The big news in the USA has been the pre-election debates between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney as well as their candidates for the vice president role. These debates produced lessons learned that can apply to sourcing negotiations such as the following:

Never let your body language show defeat. In his first debate with Romney, Obama appeared tired. He looked downward. He nodded his head, almost affirmatively, as Romney made arguments. Opinions that Romney "won" the debate were largely based on Obama's body language, not so much his words. When negotiating with a supplier, have good posture, make eye contact, control head nodding that may be interpreted as agreement, and appear energetic.

Balance toughness and likeability. In the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Biden tried to compensate for Obama's body language mistakes in the first debate. But, some argue he went too far because he smiled and laughed condescendingly while Ryan was discussing serious issues. While his conviction was admirable, his behavior hurt him in terms of "likeability." In sourcing, we have to remember that we will later be asking for favors of the very suppliers we negotiate with. So, being unlikeable is not a great long-term strategy.

Be ready to come out swinging. After the first debate, Obama knew that Romney would hope for a strong start to force Obama to revert to his defeated body language in that first debate. So, Obama began the second debate strong and fiery and performed much better. If you expect your suppliers to "come out swinging," be prepared to thwart their tactics with your own intensity.

Your lapses will be remembered. Only a few debate phrases were memorable and passed around on social media, such as Romney's statements "I love Big Bird" and "They brought us binders full of women." These were poorly articulated ways of making points. But, sometimes communication lapses are remembered more than well-articulated points. If you accidentally reveal something like "We already have budget approval" or "You're the low bidder," you can't take it back and your suppliers won't forget it. Prepare to prevent these lapses.

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