Tag Archives: procurement negotiation

Keep It Cool: Four Tips For Top Negotiators

If there’s no exchange, there is no negotiation. Great negotiators know that a willingness to compromise is often the only way to avoid a stalemate.

Negotiation is increasingly prevalent in our daily lives and is a necessary part of a wide range of professions. Given the nature of the globalized and fast-paced world in which we live, negotiating has become ubiquitous in every corporate role.

Due to the step-up in challenging objectives within organizations that wish to remain competitive, fast and sound decision-making, as well as conflict resolution through negotiation, have become more important than ever.

Tips for top negotiators

Do your homework

In order to ensure a successful agreement, the negotiator must possess in-depth knowledge of whatever is being negotiated. Moreover, they must study and understand the nature of the supplier (or client) they’re negotiating with, and have a firm grasp of key dates, financial targets and any negotiation restrictions.

The other person isn’t your enemy

Importantly, you should not see the person across the table as an adversary, but as another “player” who’s trying to solve a similar problem. A negotiation is not a competition where one wins and the other loses. Always seek a beneficial agreement where both parts secure a satisfactory degree of success, particularly if you want to have a healthy, ongoing relationship. Remember, negotiating is basically exchanging. If there’s no exchange, there is no negotiation. When one party makes a concession, the other will be expected to do so as well.

Be flexible

Flexibility is paramount in order to solve eventual stalemates, and it’s important that the professional in charge of negotiations knows for sure what they’re willing to give up. A refusal to shift can lead to a failure to reach an agreement, which won’t solve anything.

Be confident

If you can demonstrate that you’re 100% confident and knowledgeable about all aspects of the negotiation, the other party will tend to be more careful while making observations, raising objections and even proposing financial targets. Misunderstandings and ambiguities can negatively affect their credibility in the negotiation.

Ask questions

Think about what you need to ask the other party, how to ask for this information, and how you’re going to apply this information to benefit your cause. 

Four ways to gain an advantage in negotiations

  1. Always take the initiative

Commonly, the one who controls negotiations from the beginning tends to control the outcome. If you let the other party begin the negotiation, you may end up relinquishing control without realizing you’re doing so.

  1.  Formalise negotiations in writing

Many negotiators make the mistake of discussing the terms and conditions of an agreement or contract without committing themselves to a written document. Make sure you want away with a formal written agreement, recording all terms in detail.

  1. Keep it cool

Regardless of stress, agendas, egos, emotions or priorities, it’s important to remain calm and stay in control. Great negotiators know how to keep a level head and find solutions to sudden obstacles.

  1. Stay on your turf

Use the “home team advantage” by scheduling strategic negotiations at your company. Being on your own turf can give you an advantage as people are generally more at ease on familiar ground.

At the end of a successful negotiation, all participants should have a feeling of accomplishment (or at least that they’ve managed to break even). This will only occur if the negotiation has taken place in a transactional manner, that is, with compromises and achievements.

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).

Negotiations Milking you Dry? Why Not Unleash the Power of the Herd!

On Day 8, the true love bestowed that famously lusted after gift of eight milking maids…

eight maids a milking

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with the story so far on the Procurious Blog.

“On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…eight maids-a-milking.”

As the gifts become more and more extravagant, we have to question the logistics of it all – we wouldn’t be procurement professionals if we didn’t!

It’s unclear how the true love bequeathed the eight milking maids. Were eight cows also included in the purchase or was it simply a milking service that was required? Were the maids employed by an hourly rate or at a fixed cost, and how were they delivered to the lucky recipient?

Whatever happened, it would have taken some great negotiation skills to strike up a fair deal that ensured neither party was milked dry.

Perhaps the true love harnessed the knowledge of a crowd of friends to get ideas on how to orchestrate the whole thing – using the power of the herd as it were!

Negotiating Your Best Deal 

The festive season calls for a lot of meticulous planning but when it comes to negotiating deals, you need to be prepared all year round. What’s your pre-match strategy when it comes to negotiating with suppliers, clients and stakeholders?

In order to achieve the right outcome, you ought to have considered your objectives well in advance. This will help you determine what sort of negotiation you’ll need to have and assess any additional support you might need such as legal advice.

It’s also important to ensure you know the other party. What are their aspirations, weaknesses and objectives?

This Procurious e-learning video has it all covered: 

Here are some key things to bear in mind:

  • Will your agreement stand the test of time? Both parties want to feel that they’ve achieved a good deal and a satisfactory outcome.
  • Is the outcome efficient? Make sure no value has been left at the table.
  • Are you off to a good start? Negotiating a deal sets the foundation for your supplier partnerships and a precedent for the relationship you want to build.
  • Have you mastered your verbal, written and non-verbal communications? When it comes to negotiating, you need to be assertive but not aggressive!

Milking The Power of the Herd 

Sometimes, no amount of self-determination and commitment can get you across the finish line alone. We all need a little help from our friends for ideas, innovation and support.

We’ve certainly noticed that collaborative innovation has been on the rise in 2016 with more organisations embracing the power of the Hackathon.

In November, Spotless Group and Startupbootcamp hosted an epic two-day event at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia, focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT) and DataTech. Events such as these help to generate new ideas and turn innovation into reality.

Lisa Malone spoke about the value of the Hackathon at this year’s Big Ideas Summit.

Lisa explained why it’s key to foster creative cultures in the workplace, giving employees the chance to dare to think about the unthinkable. It can be hard to think big and innovate when you’re stuck in the routine of day-to-day office life.

Hackathons can be a great way to harvest creativity and allow teams to deliver the big ideas CEOs are demanding.

If hosting a hackathon seems a bit out of your reach, remember there are other ways to drive change and innovation within your organisation.

Internal collaboration also has a huge part to play. Procurious recently addressed why it’s so critical to engage Millennials with new tech implementations. They’re tech savvy and accustomed to participating in digital communities.

Their contributions, for example, could be invaluable when it comes to the adoption of e-procurement.

It’s very nearly Christmas, and many of you will be dancing out the door to your Christmas party. But what happens if there’s a crisis that arises, demanding your attention? Don’t worry, help is at hand!

Adapt and Thrive – Success in Cross-Cultural Negotiations

Adapt and survive is often a key strategy in business. It turns out that it’s just as important in cross-cultural negotiations too.

Adapt and Survive

In our previous articles on cross-cultural negotiations, we had heard what our experts had to say about preparing for cross-cultural negotiations, and the importance of building relationships before negotiations even start.

In the final article in this series, we hear from our experts on how to adapt for negotiations, and how best to handle negotiations with people from their own nationalities.

Preparing for a negotiation – Middle Eastern Challenges

More and more companies are heading to the Middle East as part of their primary business and supply strategies.

However, the cultural differences between Europe and, in particular, Saudi Arabia are stark. Getting to grips with these differences is key to creating good business relationships, and having successful negotiations in the region.

The Roundtable were asked for their thoughts on how to prepare for a first cross-cultural negotiation in Saudi Arabia. They shared what information they would aim to collect, and how they would collect it.

One key element mentioned was to understand the hierarchy and power dynamics of the organisation. Thierry Blomet talked about needing to understand how the organisation is mapped out, and how it fits with the various stakeholders in the country. As Saudi Arabia has a very different, rule-driven, culture, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the organisation and the people.

This view was echoed by Jonathan Hatfield, who added that it’s important to have diversity in your own teams, to help prepare for going into different geographies. The more diversity in your team, the better prepared you are for the global market.

The conversation then turned towards how individuals could better adapt to different cultures by being more aware of their own behaviours, and how to change behaviours to be in line with local customs.

The importance of “cultural mirroring” was put forward by Carine Kaldalian, in particular regarding dress code especially when dealing with a country with strong rules like Saudi Arabia.

Giuseppe highlighted the importance of knowing some etiquette elements that may offend the other party, like which hand to use to hand over your passport, and not showing the soles of your feet to others.

Adapt Your Behaviour

In the modern, digital world, collecting information on other cultures is far easier than it was in the past. Ali Atasoy suggested using both two common websites as prime source of information.

First Wikipedia, to understand the country, social conventions, and recent history. Then LinkedIn, to understand the individuals you would be meeting and have some ‘icebreakers’ prepared.

However, once the information has been collected, it needs to be put to good and effective use. The extent to which individuals should adapt their own behaviour was subject to some debate.

Bérénice Bessiere argued that Europeans frequently underestimate the capacity of Asian business people to adapt to European culture. The common thinking is that it’s them who will have to adapt their behaviour.

The importance of avoiding stereotypes was raised again by both Matthias Manegold and Jonathan Hatfield. Both highlighted the potential mistake in thinking that all the people in a single culture will be the same.

The different norms of different generations, and the constant evolution of cultures, mean generalisation should be avoided. However, by being aware of this, adapting behaviour and building up trust, you will create a better relationship, and any hiccups will likely be forgiven.

Negotiating with Nationalities

The final part of the Roundtable discussion focused on the participants’ views on the key advice for negotiating with people from their own countries.

It was a lighthearted way to end the discussion, but the points raised were both interesting, and highly applicable.

  • Turkey (Ali Atasoy)

Be prepared to explain why you have chosen to do business with this supplier. Any uncertainty, or lack of a valid reason, may lead to the supplier being offended by the approach.

  • Switzerland (Stéphane Guelat)

Punctuality is a huge thing, so be on time. Also, negotiations will frequently focus on product, quality, and other factors. Price is unlikely to be a key focus.

  • United Kingdom (Jonathan Hatfield)

Don’t arrive at the negotiations and be very aggressive, because you will lose your audience. Also don’t assume that you will become a business ‘partner’ immediately – this is something that has to be earned.

  • Lebanon (Carine Kaldalian)

If they have the upper hand, expect the other party to be late. It’s all part of the power play in the negotiations. Expect to be invited to dinner, even before a tough negotiation. The social side of business is very important in Lebanon.

Also, expect some heavy bargaining, as Lebanese are natural born traders.

  • Germany (Matthias Manegold)

Be on time, be credible, and be trusted by the other party. You need to demonstrate that you are interested in the other party’s well-being and outcomes, not just your own.

Small talk is unlikely. Germans will only ask “how are you?” if they are interested. It’s not a throw-away line, like in the UK or the USA. You must walk the talk – doing what you say you will is very important.

  • China (Xin-jian Carlier Fu)

A smile doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with you, they might just not want to let you down. Don’t make assumptions about the deal or how the other party is feeling about it.

Also, don’t over talk. Know that the other party is listening, but maybe are just looking for the right way to respond.

Beach vs. Coconut

The final comment fell to our facilitator Giuseppe, who showcased the difference between the peach culture and coconut culture. A beach culture, often associated with Americans, is easy to get into, but difficult to in-depth, while a coconut culture, often associated with Germans, is hard to get into, but once you are in it is worth the effort!

And with that, the Roundtable was complete. It provided a fascinating insight into cross-cultural negotiations, cultural diversity, and how procurement professionals can best prepare themselves for cross-cultural interactions.

If you want to find out more, you can get in touch with Procurious, or with Giuseppe Conti at Conti Advanced Business Learning.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

Beyond Stereotypes – Building Cross-Cultural Relationships

Don’t assume everyone in the same culture has the same norms. Getting beyond cultural stereotypes, and seeing the individual, is key to good cross-cultural negotiation preparation.

Stereotypes

In our previous article, we kicked off our recap of, and insight into, the intricacies of cross-cultural negotiations.

In the second part of the series, our negotiation experts discuss cultural dimensions literature, the importance of moving beyond stereotypes, and why time should always be on your mind.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

The participants were asked to reflect on the landmark research on cross-cultural negotiations of Geert Hofstede. Hofstede identified six key cultural dimensions, which would vary from culture to culture, that all need to be considered as part of negotiation preparation.

These are:

  • Individualist vs. collectivistic
  • Power distance (i.e. egalitarian or hierarchical)
  • Masculinity or femininity (focus on task vs. relationship)
  • Uncertainty avoidance (related to taking risk)
  • Long term vs short term orientation
  • Indulgence vs. severity (the attitude toward enjoying life and having fun).

Each culture will approach these dimensions differently, taking a spot on a sliding scale between the two extremes. Knowing where cultures sit can be a huge assistance when going into cross-cultural negotiations.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Three of the Roundtable participants discussed their experiences in negotiations when taking these dimensions into consideration. Bérénice Bessiere, Director, Procurement and Travel Division at World Intellectual Property Organization, discussed the different approaches to gender between European and Chinese companies.

Bérénice visited China to lead a negotiation. Although she was the senior buyer, she was assumed to be junior to her younger, male colleague. During the trip, it became clear that the supplier treated its female employees in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable in Europe.

The supplier didn’t win the business in the end (although for reasons other than this). Bérénice admitted she had wondered how the relationship would have worked if they had.

Another example was offered by Xin-jian Carlier Fu, Strategic Sourcing Commodity Manager at Honeywell. She highlighted the cultural differences between Chinese and Americans in business negotiations.

While many Chinese organisations operated with a very traditional, reserved culture, the Americans projected a very over-confident, talkative image in negotiations. Such was the difference to how business was conducted in China that it actually worked as a negative in negotiations between the two groups.

Finally, Carina Kaldalian, External Supply Governance Specialist at Merck, shared her experience based on her own cultural differences. In her home country of Lebanon, being an hour late to a social event is entirely acceptable.

So when Carina arrived for her first social meeting in Switzerland 10 minutes late, she thought she was doing ok. However, it was seen as unacceptable by the people she was meeting with.

This helped her make changes to her own behaviour, while giving her a better understanding of punctuality in different cultures.

Going Beyond Stereotypes

Giuseppe Conti made the point that cultural averages and stereotypes don’t necessarily apply to all individuals. Individual culture is instead influenced by a number of factors including work experience, upbringing, family values, and education, amongst other things.

When negotiating in a cross-cultural situation, it’s important to get past stereotypes, and uncover specific traits of the individuals you are dealing with.

The participants had a number of ways that this could be done. Thierry Blomet, Senior Vice President at Kemira, suggested an informal discussion over dinner the day before the negotiation. This would allow people to avoid entering negotiations without having ever met the other party before.

Other participants highlighted the importance of building relationships, and getting to know the other party better. This was especially important when dealing with Asian counterparts.

Other good strategies were identified as building information through local agents, creating an emotional connection, and building trust in the early stages. With high value placed against trust by many cultures, it’s key to get it right. Participants even highlighted instances where contracts had been signed on the basis of trust alone.

All Down to Timing
Laurence Perot
Laurence Perot

Time was also a factor mentioned by the Roundtable. Laurence Pérot, Director of Global & Strategic Sourcing at Logitech, recommended planning for time, as it’s likely to be treated differently in different cultures.

Laurence recommended planning for more time than you think you will need. This will help ensure you have good conversations, and get what you need. It will also help to show the other party that you’re not just rushing to close the deal.

However, there were also warnings that suppliers might try to use time to their advantage. Ali Atasoy, CMO Operations Manager (Intercontinental) at Merck, stated that the other party may be deliberately slowing the negotiation down, as efficiency may not be at the top of their agenda. He advised patience in this situation, helped by knowing that there were no major time limitations for your negotiations.

Finally, the reputation of an organisation was also highlighted. Matthias Manegold, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain Practice at Kinetic Consulting, advised that procurement professionals need to be consistent in their negotiations, and make sure the other party feels good about the outcomes.

Outcomes will drive what people say about you, and negative comments could harm your reputation with the wider supply base.

In the final article in this series, we’ll look at discussions on how individuals can adapt their behaviours based on information that is gathered, as well as the experts’ advice on how to negotiate with people of their own nationality.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

The Art of Cross-Cultural Negotiation

Negotiations can be tricky. A cross-cultural negotiation presents an entirely different challenge, one with countless pitfalls and potential faux-pas.

Cross-Cultural Negotiation Roundtable

Negotiations in a business setting can be difficult at the best of times. Throw cross-cultural diversity into the mix, and the difficulty level rises again.

The way you speak, behave, control your body language, and operate can change hugely from culture to culture. This increases the chance of making a mistake, or accidentally offending the other party.

Some people may also make the mistake of assuming that when we talk about culture, we are limiting this to a purely geographical standpoint.

When referring to a cross-cultural negotiation we often talk about different nationalities as a primary characterisation. But this is not the only element that affects culture.

Culture is the unique characteristics of a social group, and the values and norms shared by its members. This social group may be a country, a corporation, a religion, gender, an organisational function, or one of many others.

Dealing with Cross-Cultural Negotiation

How can you prepare for a cross-cultural negotiation? What do you need to know? What do you need to prepare in advance? And how should you approach negotiating with different cultures? This is where expert advice can help.

Procurious were lucky enough to be invited to listen in on a cross-cultural negotiation roundtable, organised by Giuseppe Conti, Founder of Conti Advanced Business Learning. Participants came from a range of businesses and diverse backgrounds, and comprised 8 different nationalities. The discussion was fascinating, and provided some great insights into a complex subject.

In this series of articles, we will examine key factors to be taken into consideration during cross-cultural negotiations, and see some real-world examples straight from the experts.

Power Dynamics and Balance

Giuseppe kicked off the discussion by asking the participants to talk about their own experiences of cross-cultural negotiations.

Jonathan Hatfield, Director of Purchasing, EMEA at PPG Industries, talked about his first trip to Russia to purchase chemicals.

Supplier power played a large part in the negotiations. Jonathan visited factories in Siberia, where no-one spoke any English. In line with the strong hierarchical culture of the country, he was also dealt with several junior product managers before he could access more senior people.

While Jonathan’s aim was to create a relationship with the supplier, the supplier cut straight to the point. They only wanted to know what he wanted to buy, where it was going, and what the price would be.

Jonathan left Russia not even knowing if he had managed to secure any materials (happily he did!). It taught him about power balance, and also to make sure that he had approvals lined up in advance.

Language Barriers and Coffee

Two other participants gave examples highlighting the difficulties of language barriers and body language.

Thierry Blomet, Senior Vice President at Kemira, took part in a negotiation with an Indian customer, who appeared to be shaking their head from side to side at every argument that was presented. This left Thierry feeling that none of his ideas had been accepted.

When he questioned this with his local representative however, he was told that he was doing fine. The shake of the head was actually a sign of agreement with what he was saying.

Matthias Manegold, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain Practice at Kinetic Consulting, talked about a situation where language barriers played a major role.

He was negotiating with an Asian business to bring new technology to Europe. Each statement in the negotiation was met with a “Hai” (Japanese for yes), but it wasn’t until later on that Matthias was told that this actually meant, “Yes, we hear you, but we don’t necessarily agree”.

Jean-Noel Puissant
Jean-Noel Puissant

One final example came from Jean-Noël Puissant, Head of Procurement EMEA at Monsanto International. Jean-Noël highlighted the difference in how negotiations start in different cultures.

In one negotiation in the South of Italy, the owner of the supplier arrived with his wife, listened to the agenda being laid out, then suggested everyone get a coffee.

It was his way of starting the negotiation by getting to know the other party better with some conversation before the business discussions kicked off.

Company Cultures

The participants also reflected on company cultures, and how current or former employers’ cultures had shaped their own negotiation approaches.

Stephane Guelat, Senior Director – Supply Chain at Pentair Valves and Controls, spoke about one of the key factors for procurement and supply chain – ethics.

Stephane said that, while many organisations will put employees through ethics training, the ethical standards may be different across cultures. For instance, the exchange of services or gifts may be perceived as completely unethical in Western Europe, while fully normal in India.

Xin-jian Carlier Fu, Strategic Sourcing Commodity Manager at Honeywell, argued that there are likely to be many different cultures within the same organisation.

This was confirmed by Jonathan Hatfield, who said that this is ever more the case as organisations from different cultures and countries merge. He added that it was something buyers needed to be cognisant of when dealing with companies which had been taken over.

Finally, Giuseppe highlighted how his first job with a large multinational with a very competitive culture shaped his initial approach to negotiation.

When working later in his career with a smaller, family-owned organisation, he learned to adapt and broaden his approach to negotiation. According to Jean-Noël, we cannot assume one-size-fits-all. We need to understand the specific culture of each large or small organisation.

There’s much more to come on this topic, including tips on negotiating with different nationalities, and applications of cross-cultural research in negotiations. Come back next week for more.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

How Automation Could Shift the Negotiation Landscape

Ever wanted to know exactly what the other party in a negotiation is thinking? The growth of automation could potentially provide this and change the negotiation landscape for good.

Automation Negotiation

I read a very interesting scare story in the press recently. The claim was that the Uber smartphone app was monitoring the status of the phone’s battery and, when customers’ batteries were very low, raising the prices of their Uber rides.

For anyone interested in negotiation, this is a fascinating development; an example of automated gathering of information to develop actionable insight and take a position based on the expected influence of that information on the counter-party’s price sensitivity.

Or, to put it in plain English, guessing that a person looking for a cab with a dying phone in their hand will be that bit more desperate and price insensitive than the person who has plenty of power to find an alternative if they don’t like the Uber price.

Data Gathering & Behavioural Economics

The truth behind the story is less sensational but no less impactful. A little more research led me to the source of the story – an interview on NPR’s excellent ‘Hidden Brain‘ podcast with Keith Chen, Uber’s head of economic research.

The episode (entitled “Your Brain on Uber”) gives fascinating insight into the ways in which Uber combines unprecedented levels of wholly automated data gathering and insight with understanding of behavioural economics to assess what price they should be charging for a ride.

Uber does track your smartphone’s battery level and, while they’re adamant they won’t charge you more just because your iPhone is low on juice, they do know exactly how much more likely you are to accept their already controversial “Surge Pricing” when you’re low on power.

Uber raise prices when demand surges. So if demand temporality exceeds supply, Surge Pricing kicks in and the Uber drivers charge more for their service. Uber defend Surge Pricing by saying it provides an economic incentive for their drivers to “Surge” to where the excess demand is. This can be extremely useful where that Surge is unforeseen.

For example, a recent strike on London’s Docklands Light Railway led to me and several thousand other unfortunates to become stranded on Canary Wharf. Uber drivers all around London got the message; “Get to the Canary Wharf area. Surge Pricing is in effect”, and the message had the desired effect. Every Uber in town made money that night. Drivers who weren’t even planning on working saw the message on their phones and drove down.

To give you an idea of why they would do that, Surge Pricing can be up to 9.9 times the normal fare. That’s a powerful incentive to get yourself to the right place at the right time. Contrast this with Black Cabs’ static pricing. If the cabbies were doing ok in the West End, they weren’t going to make any extra by driving for free to Canary Wharf to pick up passengers who wouldn’t even pay a premium for their efforts.

The Buy Side

So the behavioural economics of the supply side of the deal stack up, but Uber talk less about the buy side of that trade. Yes, the opportunity to make more money out of short-term scarcity of supply will incentivise more supply, but while that imbalance persists you’re going to make a lot of money by exploiting desperation on the demand side.

For the most part I’m not minded to criticise Uber for that. If it meant a bunch of bankers and consultants had to pay more to make their table at Nobu Berkeley, I’m inclined to say “They can afford it”. And if they can’t, they can always pick up a sandwich and wait it out in a pub.

But there are people who can’t afford it. There were people on the Wharf that night who had to choose between not being there to pick their kids up from childcare and paying a week’s worth of disposable income to be there. As in all negotiation, it’s rarely about fairness. One other factor in Uber’s defence; the app makes finding people to share a ride with quite easy, which might mitigate against the impact of Surge pricing.

Optimising Yields

Uber’s Surge pricing algorithm is a particularly effective, automated negotiator. It is hugely well prepared, in the sense that it knows it’s counterparty and their motivations intimately. It is implacable and unemotional and it does the job that is intrinsic to all negotiators; it gets more for its stakeholders.

Surge pricing is a development of Yield Management, which is extremely commonplace in certain industries (travel in particular). What’s interesting in the Uber example is the innovative way that Uber is optimising yields through the use of ever more data.

As in everything else we do, automation is going to become a bigger and bigger part of negotiation. Negotiators will find more and more innovative applications for data science to equip them with information which leads to actionable insight, and some of these innovative applications will be more intrusive than others. Today it’s Uber accessing the battery meter on your smartphone, tomorrow’s risks will be far more wide reaching.

Automation in Negotiation

Ever thought how interesting it would be to hook your negotiation counterparty up to a lie-detector? You can have the next best thing today. If you could find a hacker to plug you into the data flow between your counterparty’s iWatch and their iPhone, you could watch their heart rate in real time on your phone as you negotiate with them. It’s an exaggeration, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t feasible and useful.

Recently I sat in on a meeting between a client in professional services and an Artificial Intelligence-based IT vendor. At the close of the meeting the vendor showed off his company’s personal assistant app on his smartphone, and a senior figure in my client was so impressed he immediately downloaded it from the App store and installed it on his company smartphone.

When the vendor left, I pointed out that he had probably signed away access to his email, phone records and contacts and diary to a vendor who was likely to be involved in a sourcing process, meaning that vendor could in theory see which other vendors the client was meeting, and when, and with which internal stakeholders coming along for the ride.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that the vendor in question had any intention of doing any such thing, but I can say that the client in question looked very sheepish and quickly deleted the app!

Technology constantly changes and develops but information is and always will be key to the balance of power in our negotiations. Think carefully about what you share, how you share it and who you share it with.