A famous tag-line from the ads that almost always seem to find their way into airline magazines promoting the services of Dr. Chester L. Karrass’ firm is “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
Karrass, the author of four books on negotiation techniques including “The Negotiating Game’, ‘Give and Take’ and ‘In Business as in Life – You Don’t Get What You Deserve You Get What You Negotiate,” challenges the reader to take the bull by the horns and gain the upper hand in any situation.
Unfortunately, it is this adversarial state of mind coupled with a misguided view of transparency, that for so many years had and to a certain degree still does hinder the buyer and supplier relationship to the point of negatively impacting an organization’s ability to sustain positive results in the key areas of cost savings and quality performance.
Given that many, many suppliers are continuing to stay away in increasing numbers from responding to RFPs , especially within the realms of the public sector tendering process, one would hope that this “better the person on the other side of the table mindset” had finally given way to the realization that people buy from whom they “know, like and trust.” In short, building relationships that enable a supplier to legitimately and transparently win preference with buyers,” versus becoming figurative notches on their negotiating belt is now the order of the day.
However, and based on a recent exchange within the confines of what has been called the “#1 supply chain and sourcing group” in the world of social networking with 63, 419 members, old habits or ideas die hard.
Greg Williams, whose firm The Master Negotiator posed the following question to the membership, is just one example of this realization; “As a procurement professional, do you lie when negotiating? Do you know how to detect, defuse, and defend against lies during negotiations?”
He then goes on to write:
“When you negotiate, do you lie? Please, don’t even think about becoming indignant. Everybody lies when negotiating, for one reason or another. If you say you don’t lie, you’re lying!
Depending upon what someone is trying to achieve, some lie substantially more than others. Some people believe, when they’re negotiating, if they tell a ‘white’ lie, it’s OK. Some believe, a successful negotiation outcome justifies the mean, and thus they do what is necessary to accomplish the goal.
You can be more successful during negotiations, by being aware of what motivates people to lie.”
Of course not surprisingly, many of the 98 comments that were posted did indeed become indignant at the suggestion that lying is an inherent part of the procurement process. Some of course added a comedic twist in their reply such as Adrian Scott who wrote “No, I didn’t lie to you…the truth changed…”
All this being said, the issue I have with Greg’s “question” beyond promoting his services which include “gaining insight into ways to detect when someone is being deceptive,” is that it attempts to keep the embers of mistrust burning at a time when the profession has started to realize that a win-win relationship has to mean more than a hollow expression of a noble sentiment.
As a radio host for example, I always provide my guests with a show outline including the list of questions I will be asking in advance. A few news people have suggested that this is not desirable because you somehow want to “catch” a guest in a lie or saying one thing, but doing another.
This is the same “old school” way of thinking that is similar to the Karrass mantra of getting the upper hand that is more in line which a Genghis Khan conquer or be conquered approach to purchasing.
I of course believe that providing the guest with the questions in advance gives him or her a level playing field by which to come back with their very best. The advantage of this method is that the thoroughness of my research into the subject matter is the ultimate litmus test or “truth” filter.
To this end, more and more procurement professionals are doing their homework on what they intend to purchase versus taking the easy route of learning hard negotiating techniques. That’s right, the “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” mantra is one of laziness as it attempts to implement cheap parlor room tricks as the means of driving a one-sided advantage.
In the end, the difference between a true procurement professional and what one senior executive during a CPO Agenda Roundtable Discussion referred to as a dime-a-dozen buyer, is the level of one’s commitment and where his or her energy is subsequently directed in terms of achieving a best-value result for ALL stakeholders.