As communication methods have changed throughout history, negotiation has followed. Prior to the industrial revolution, people would negotiate face-to-face when bartering, exchanging negotiated quantities of corn for negotiated quantities of musket balls.
Then, of course, the telephone allowed negotiators in different locations to bargain. Finally, in the past 10-15 years, email became a popular – but sometimes ineffective – medium in which to exchange offers (our online class “Powerful Negotiation For Successful Buying” teaches when negotiating by email is smart and when it is the most foolish thing a procurement professional can do). Of course, eSourcing technologies allow for all sorts of online negotiation activities.
So what’s next?
Stroll through any mall and you’re likely to bump into (literally) a few teens walking while staring intently at their cell phones as their thumbs flail away on the keypad in the process of texting (also called “txting” or “sending text messages”). These are future representatives of our suppliers.
Is texting the future method of negotiating?
Some of you are probably saying “I hope not.” But the reality is that texting is likely to creep into the mainstream negotiation process to some degree soon.
If you are feeling yourself getting mad, it might be time to read “Who Moved My Cheese?” again.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that you go out and conduct all of your negotiations by text message from this point forward. After all, texting has many disadvantages from a negotiation standpoint, such as:
- You give the other party time to think through their response
- You cannot communicate tone-of-voice through texting
- Texting (at least when I do it) is often rife with errors
- The amount of space you have in a text isn’t enough for discussing any substantial issues
- You cannot watch for body language clues from the other party
- There is a higher probability of misunderstandings
- And so on…
But when you need a simple response quickly (or want to create that illusion in order to gain pressured concessions from your suppliers), texting might fit the bill in some limited situations.
Now, texting among teens has its own vocabulary and acronyms, like “ur” (for “your,” “you’re,” or “you are”), “l8r” (for “later”), and, of course, the old standby from the email days “lol” (for “laughing out loud”). So, do we need a similar vocabulary for procurement negotiations? I don’t know, but just to be safe I’ll start one here (& u can feel free 2 add ur own in the comments):
- 2HI – “Too High,” an expression that the supplier’s price is too high, sent in reply to a supplier’s text inquiring about the competitiveness of their offer
- BAFO – “Best and Final Offer,” as in “send ur BAFO”
- DL – “Deal,” an expression that you’ve accepted the supplier’s offer
- LTAS – “Leaning Towards Another Supplier,” sent in reply to a supplier’s text asking about the status of your decision on proposals, meant to compel the supplier to submit a revised, more attractive proposal
- SYP – “Sharpen Your Pencil,” synonymous with “submit an offer more appealing to me”
Natually, ethics that apply to traditional negotiation will need to apply to negotiation-by-txt as well. With the aforementioned high probability of misunderstanding, you want to be careful to not insult the supplier or behave inappropriately. For example, I would never use “LOL” with a supplier as doing so may insult the supplier and make the supplier terminate the negotiation. Also, be very careful when using the “F” character, as doing so may indicate the use of a profanity, as in “Send ur bid ASAFP.” My thumbs always inadvertently add unintended letters to messages, so proofread to ensure that you didn’t add that vulgar “F.”
While some parts of this post are slightly written in jest, I do feel that texting will rear its head into more and more procurement negotiations in the near future. Therefore, it is imperitive to be prepared.
Never fight change when the writing is on the wall.
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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