Find out from 7 procurement experts how they transfer their expertise, making the company find long term success.
This article was based on research conducted by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specializes in Negotiation & Influencing training.
For any junior buyer, facing head to head with an experienced negotiator can be especially intimidating. In many cases, they are thrown into the deep end without enough preparation and guidance by their colleagues and superiors. 7 procurement experts and leaders in their respective industries shared their wisdom on what they consider as the best practice for teaching direct reports and junior negotiators on the art of negotiation.
1. Access to training and development programs
Over the 35-years that I have been in the Procurement and Supply function, I have found the following three approaches in coaching for the preparation of negotiations to be critical in becoming a respected and effective functional leader and a consistently successful negotiator:
The first is to coach and promote “win-win” outcomes in business negotiations, aiming for partnerships with supplier partners instead of the “arms-length” relationships that are often the case. Secondly, to provide access to “enabling” training and development programs that genuinely help individuals to strengthen their potential for success in negotiations; not just from a functional or technical perspective, but equally in soft skills.
Lastly, to mentor and encourage building greater understanding in “emotional intelligence” in how we are perceived in our professional engagements and how this can be leveraged or disable our ability to deliver successful negotiation outcomes.
Les Ball, Chief Procurement Officer, ABB Motors and Generators
2. Exposure to more complex negotiations lead by experienced sourcing professionals
I use a three-faceted approach when mentoring direct reports to negotiate. Firstly, I make sure that all ‘on-the-job’ elements of negotiation preparation are available, this includes understanding market forces, supplier/buyer strengths and weaknesses, leverage tool kit, leading post-negotiation assessments to name a few. Secondly, I want to ensure my more junior direct reports are exposed to more complex negotiations led by experienced sourcing professionals and over time, provide more opportunities in real negotiations to improve their skills in the field. Finally, it is a must to provide external training to stay in touch with industry trends and keep learning learn new negotiation techniques or strategies.
Elodie Cramer, Associate Director, Biogen
3. Negotiating together
I believe in learning by doing.
The best way to help and improve the negotiation skills of direct reports is to undertake a negotiation together. Use these opportunities to provide feedback and reflect on what went well and what didn’t. I also believe that after any important negotiation you should have a post-mortem review. Younger negotiators need to have an internal (or external coach) to guide them in preparing and delivering a negotiation, this includes a rehearsal before a big negotiation, which is not often done by buyers.
Guillaume Leopold, Procurement Advisory Partner, Ernst & Young
4. Scenario planning
Scenario planning and role-playing can really help accelerate a person’s ability to negotiate. Do they know who is coming and what their expectations are? How are they going to open the negotiation and present their need? Have they considered what the responses may be to their arguments and how to counter them? Additionally, coaching in other facets such as learning to actively listen and what topics or words not to say are just as important as rehearsing the key arguments.
Jon Hatfield, Director Global Supply Management, PPG
5. Joint preparation
Spending time with them during the preparation phase gives direct reports more assurance.
This is especially evident for complex negotiations, where suppliers double up as customers. Consequently, collaboration becomes an absolute necessity. As a group, we also organise simulations and role plays in order to practice, exchange, discuss, review the negotiations and our performance in them. This team element ensures that they can learn from me as I can learn from them
Christophe Schmitt, Head of Strategic Supplies, Omya
6. Sharing of current negotiations as a team
I used to set up regular physical meetings with all my direct reports to share and think collectively in a secure environment. By creating a friendly and open-minded atmosphere, we would share our current negotiations, the techniques we used and the challenges we faced. We would discuss the approaches, the outcomes and brainstorm on any alternative ways.
Olivier Cachat, Chief Procurement Officer, IWG.
7. Practising plenty of role plays
Role-playing is my favourite method. Specifically, I would ask my buyer to brief me on their strategy, then I play the buyer and get my colleague to experience how the supplier may feel and may react to their argument and proposals.
These answers were collected by Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner of Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a consulting firm that specialises in negotiation & influencing. This article is part of a series aimed at collecting real-life negotiation experiences from Procurement executives.