Don’t Be Afraid To Kick A Colleague When Negotiating

In a major negotiation, procurement needs to deal not only with the supplier representative on the other side of the table, but with the internal stakeholder sitting next to you. If that person deviates from the script – as they so often do – then don’t be afraid to kick them in the shins. It’s your job!  

Procurious was invited to attend a Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning) and facilitated by its Founder, Giuseppe Conti.

Conti introduced the subject by pointing out that in many negotiations, it isn’t enough to negotiate with the suppliers. Usually, there’s a minefield of internal negotiation to get through first.

Don’t enter the maze without a map

Håkan Rubin refers to his company (IKEA) as a “matrix organisation”, and therefore sees stakeholder mapping and management as crucial before any sourcing activity. In his role as Supply Chain Operations Leader (Group Sustainability Innovations), Rubin says that identifying who the key players are internally isn’t always that obvious. “We try to get everyone on board, to make sure that resources are available and that everyone feels they are involved.”

Paul André, Emerging Products & Commercial Supply Director at JTI, built upon Rubin’s point: “I find that even though you’ve carried out your stakeholder mapping and have a joint meeting with key people involved, a lot of discussion happens outside of that meeting. What happens between the meetings is often more important, where people agree on things in one-to-one discussions.”

Overcoming resistance

Kemira’s Senior VP of Global Sourcing, Thierry Blomet, examined some of the typical resistance that procurement faces from internal stakeholders. “They have restrictive time constraints, heavy specifications, and often want to select suppliers based on past history and how comfortable they are with using them. It’s often challenging for procurement to convince stakeholders that there’s a better option against so much resistance, especially in a conservative industry not willing to take on the adventure of new technology or new suppliers.”

Xinjian Carlier (Strategic Sourcing Commodity Manager -Honeywell) shared an example of how she overcame resistance to a request for extra resources to deal with a major issue with significant financial impacts. “The reaction was ‘we don’t have time – I can’t give you the resource.’ I explained that the reason I came to them was that the company including both procurement and engineering would suffer an impact of hundreds of million in sales. Basically, I converted the issue into facts and put both of us in the same boat. This helped the senior leader in engineering understand, and reprioritise his resources.”

Resolving conflicting objectives

Laurence Pérot, Head of Global Supply Chain & Procurement at Logitech, comments that particularly in larger organisations, it’s procurement’s responsibility (and challenge) to juggle differing objectives and agendas from varied teams. “When you’re dealing with different functions, it sometimes isn’t clear what the company actually wants out of the negotiation. It means we [procurement] are unsure what we’re going to ask for. I had an experience where we had to make the decision on our own about the objectives on behalf of the rest of the community, because we couldn’t get alignment between the functions.”

Procter and Gamble’s Global Capability Purchasing Leader, Tamara Taubert, adds that procurement owns the discipline to be able to turn around complex, multiparty negotiation effectively. “To do that, our stakeholders need to get educated on what a negotiation is, the do’s and don’ts, and their role in the negotiation itself. The procurement representative might be the only person sitting at the table across from the supplier, but there are others involved in the negotiation, whether they like it or not. Procurement can lead by connecting all parties together and help them come to a value agreement.”

Staying in control

Blomet has found that engineers are generally happy to be guided by procurement as they’re often less experienced in negotiations and sourcing events. But when senior business stakeholders step in, it’s often more challenging for procurement to keep control of the process. “Business stakeholders are more likely to say that they know how the negotiation should be handled. Procurement may be tempted to back off at this point, but my advice is don’t back off. It’s even more important to help set the scene, do the roleplay, and keep them under control both during the preparation phase and during the meeting itself. And yes, this means it might be necessary to kick someone under the table if they deviate from the script.”

Alessandra Silvano, Global Category Director Capex and MRO at Carlsberg Group, says this has happened to her. “I had to ask someone who was not keeping to the script to leave the room. This person was becoming emotional and I could see we would be left in a bad position. I called a time-out, we took a break, left the room, and the supplier stayed behind. Eventually, we went back into the meeting and said we’d like to continue in a smaller group – leaving out the person who was not playing according to the script.”

Francesco Lucchetta, Director of Strategic Supply at Pentair, noted that although emotion can cause people to leave the script, it’s part of the negotiator’s toolset. “There’s a difference between playing with emotions and keeping negotiations under control. In a supplier negotiation, you’re the customer, so you can be much more emotional than they are. In an internal negotiation, you’re more likely to change a stakeholder’s mind by pointing out the emotional/risk side of the issue, rather than presenting facts around savings.”

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Visit http://www.cabl.ch/ to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).