How do you get to win-win? By exchanging offers and requests, and indulging in give and take – maybe upfront simultaneously, or maybe over time – now us, then you. Each side is prepared to be “generous” to the other, to make “sacrifices” for the greater longer-term mutual good.
Ethical, responsible vendors look beyond simply maximising short-term revenue. They equally expect to deliver on customer satisfaction, for it is this that leads to repeat business and referrals.
Just like purchasers who look to the future go beyond merely trying to slash the price at which they buy and to extend their credit terms. They know the suppliers too must cover their costs and make a living, so as to be there for them tomorrow.
In leading up to the negotiation the vendor should adopt the mindset of an adviser to the buyer, helping them make the business case for their solution. Yes, solution (not just the product and its features), with its cost-benefit analysis to show it makes sense.
This requires gaining a good understanding of the needs of the buyer – bearing in mind that what they think they want does not necessarily align with your perception of their need. Reaching alignment here in itself can become an important aspect of negotiation.
Are prospects too focused on short-term cost-minimisation? If so how do you move them to look at the broader context of value-for-money? This kind of negotiating is particularly important for suppliers who don’t expect to be the cheapest but to offer the best product/solution with a good return on having invested in it.
This requires preparing a document that goes way beyond a statement of product features and price (a “quotation”) to showing a full understanding of the need and how it is being met, maybe with alternatives and recommendations (a “proposal”).
With capital goods, where installation, maintenance and other ongoing services are provided, one of the biggest challenges is avoiding the blame game when problems arise, which all too often they do.
This requires investing time up front to agree on a code of conduct should such issues emerge. The objective is to keep calm and be solution-oriented, accepting that no one is perfect. That’s negotiating and building robust win-win relationships at the outset.
When I launched my early career as a key account manager of large IT clients, I was much younger than those with whom I was interacting on the customer side.
The challenge for me was to hold my own despite the great age difference, and I found that due to my understanding of the essence of the business case for our solutions I was confident enough to engage with such people as adult to adult, as equals. I respected them, and they respected me; we listened to one another and co-created the way ahead.
There are plenty of confident young people, and not least here in Kenya. Equally though, I have found many who feel intimidated by elders, not least in our society where the older you are the more respect you expect, and that your way will prevail.
(Now well into my third age I push back whenever I feel I am being offered excessive respect purely as a result of being a mzee… or, for that matter, a mzungu.)
So when it comes to negotiating, at whatever age – or whichever gender, it is vital to overcome feeling inhibited merely because of being younger or being a woman. No, enjoy interacting with prospects and clients eye-to-eye. Yes, enjoy.
Chat about other things; laugh together; commiserate. Treat them as partners, where both you and they will do well from the relationship and where you look forward to interacting. That’s how your first contract with such a customer will be far from your last.