Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way
-Daniele Vare, Italian Diplomat
We all negotiate every day. Much of our time is spent trying to reach agreement with others. We may try to negotiate in a cooperative spirit but frequently we find ourselves frustrated. We want to get to yes, but often the answer we back is NO. Broadly defined, negotiation is the process of back-and-forth communication aimed at reaching agreement with others when some of your interests are shared and some are opposed.
Negotiation is not limited to the activity of formally sitting across a table discussing a contentious issue; it is the informed activity you engage in whenever you try to get something you want from another person. Think about the last interaction you have had with a supplier for instance. Was it a ‘hard’ approach? That was hard on the issue and also the person? Or was it sitting side by side seeking a resolution to an issue be it pricing, service or quality?
Joint Problem Solving
We may all be negotiators, yet many of us don’t like to negotiate. We see negotiation as stressful confrontation. We see ourselves faced with an unpleasant choice. If we are ‘soft’ in order to preserve the relationship, we end up giving up our position. If we are ‘hard’ in order to win our position, we strain the relationship or perhaps lose it altogether.
There is an alternative: joint problem solving. It is neither exclusively soft nor hard, but a combination of each. It is soft on people and hard on the issue. Instead of attacking each other, you jointly attack the issue. Instead of glowering across the table, you sit next to each other facing your common problem. In short, you turn face-to-face confrontation into side-by-side problem solving.
Joint problem solving revolves around interests instead of positions. You begin by identifying each sides interests – the concerns , needs and desires that underlie and motivate your opposing positions. You then explore different options for meeting those interests. Your goal is to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement in an efficient and amicable fashion.
Joint problem solving can generate better results for both sides. It saves time and energy by cutting out the posturing. And it usually leads to better working relationships and to mutual benefit in the future.
As the Hospitality Industry reopens , frustratingly slow, it is crucial to find time to sit and Joint Problem Solve with your suppliers to ensure maximum profit is being achieved by achieving a lean purchasing file. Throughout this engagements be mindful of quality but do seek alternatives where your menu allows and ask these questions.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Most negotiations are won and lost even before the talking begins, depending on the quality of the preparation. People who think they can ‘wing it’ without preparing often sadly find themselves sadly mistaken. I often find the supplier/service provider is more informed than the business owner/chef on the products/services being provided. Preparation takes time but it can be shortened by early communication with your supplier by simply requesting a sales report from that supplier. This is easily achieved as this information is captured in your sales history. Request the following information 1. Product 2. Unit of Measure 3. Code . 4. Quantity bought ( for a period i.e. 6 months) and finally 5. Price.. This simple request gives you a clear picture of what you are spending your hard earned cash on.
Once you have this information gathered it is then time to research where the market currently is on price trends for your spends. This previously was a slow and time consuming process. Now this have never been easier with the information contained in our monthly ‘ Purchasing Matters’ newsletter. Contained within the publication amongst other key industry updates are Market Average Prices ( MAP). These indicators are neither the cheapest nor the dearest in the market but realistic prices Treo have gathered throughout the last four years of trending prices within the industry ( updated as the markets change be that positively- price reduction, or negatively- price increase) and are based on a minimum of 3 prices per product to arrive at the most updated MAP.
Once you have your MAP in place then you are in a strong position to Problem-Solve. Knowledge is power and knowing the key price trends is power to ensure quick and effective negotiations.
The truth is that you cant afford not to prepare. Take the time even if it means taking time out of the actual negotiations itself. Negotiations would be a lot more effective if people spent more of their limited time preparing and less in actual meetings.
Enter the negotiations with clear objectives and remain focused throughout. Be prompt on any follow ups required as a supplier may need to revert on certain prices. Set clear time frames for price files i.e. 6 months etc. Once you have achieved your objectives it is now time to make money.
If Your Not Buying Right, Your Not Selling Right.