Yesterday, I posted about two seemingly polar opposite approaches to supplier collaboration. I particularly pointed out one CPO’s method of gauging suppliers’ interest in partnering by including his quote from a recent Supply Management magazine article in which he said, “You have to see it in the way that people respond to your pushes, challenges, and demands.”

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I often say that the real relationship between a buyer and seller begins during the first negotiation. And you can often gauge a supplier’s interest in partnership during that first negotiation as well, many times without “pushes, challenges, and demands.”

When working with a new supplier and talking through decisions that need to be made, I always like to ask the question “What would you decide/do if you were me?”

Of course, I usually know at that time what decision I will make or what action I will take. But I love to see how the supplier responds.

Suppliers are rarely prepared for this question. So their responses are usually very revealing and unscripted.

If the supplier responds in a way that recommends a decision that is clearly and heavily skewed towards their best interests and doesn’t consider your best interests, then you know that you’re not speaking with someone committed to a partnership.

In most negotiation cases, showing how smart you are gives you leverage. However, using a question like this and “playing dumb” once in a while can really expose you to the inner workings of a supplier’s mind.

A selfish response doesn’t necessarily mean that I will walk away from that supplier. But I will know whether I am entering into a transactional relationship or a partnership.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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