Have you ever wondered why there is such a great emphasis placed on learning negotiating techniques? After all, and as a simple search on the Internet will demonstrate, there are tens if not hundreds of books written on providing insight and direction on negotiating deals rather than building relationships. From “negotiating to yes” to “zero sum” and everything in between, the myriad of models all seem to aim at establishing the ever elusive win-win or “we” arrangement.
What is being completely missed here is that the prerequisite conditions for a true collaborative relationship cannot be borne or delivered from a “contract first and relationship second” mentality.
So what is a contract first mentality?
Quite simply, it represents the “you get what you negotiate not what you deserve” mindset that is based upon an adversarial approach to working with your partners. Or to put it another way, you first have to “beat” your partner before you can start to “work” with your partner. Regardless of the negotiating technique you employ, this one-upmanship approach is hardly the ideal scenario for forming a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.
In my book Relationships First: The New Paradigm in Contract Management, I discuss how there is no real substitute for insight-based decision making in successful long term relationships. Of course the only way to gain the required level of insight for a successful long-term relationship is through an ongoing joint focus on relationship planning, business process improvement, issues management and opportunities development leading to improved relationship outcomes. Again, this is something that is difficult if not impossible to do at the negotiating table.
This is also the reason why in my book and at my seminars, I discuss at length the following three crucial elements and the key role they play in establishing and managing successful relationships:
• Industry analysis – a process of in-depth understanding of related industries, strategic groupings and private sector capabilities that drives the alignment of relationship objectives and outsourcing or partnering strategy
• Strategic Fit evaluation – assessing vendors not just on their ability to meet the known requirements but also the alignment of their corporate strategy and strategic capabilities with client strategic outcomes and key enablement requirements
• Establishing and managing a Relationship Charter within which delivery, performance and relationship is managed and evolved
In the end, what I am really saying is that we need to place less emphasis on the negotiation phase, negotiator skills or tactics, and instead place greater reliance on building truly collaborative relationships throughout the entire procurement process.
Not only will your adoption of the Relationships First mindset ensure that you have the right partner at the table both now as well as into the future, it also means that you will be able to establish a jointly agreed upon collaborative framework that will enable you to co-manage the generation of deliverables, ongoing relationship performance and the inevitable situational changes that occur throughout the life of the contract.