No, I didn’t really get a cat to walk my dog. But it made for a great title, right? (Don’t worry, there is a point to this). We all know cats know how to walk, you could call theme experts on walking. But hiring them to walk a dog is just obnoxious, am I right? Agreed.
If you wouldn’t hire a cat to walk a dog, would you hire a lawyer to perform brain surgery? Or how about a ballerina to build a house? What about a circus clown for computer support? I think you get the point. Just because you are a professional in one area, doesn’t make you one in another; no matter how closely related the tasks may be.
I don’t know why, but almost every business partner I run into (despite a few recent exceptions) thinks that they are an expert when it comes to negotiations. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I know we negotiate things in everyday life, but that doesn’t make you an expert. Just like a cat is an expert at walking, it doesn’t qualify him to walk a dog.
If you have solid business skills that is great, but they don’t necessarily qualify for expert negotiations. There are books, training courses and so much to understand when it comes to the art of negotiations. It’s like any else.
So why does this matter? Well, quite frankly it matters a lot. If you aren’t well versed in the tricks of the trade, the odds are you will get caught up in them. And when thinking about negotiating multi-million dollar deals, you would think you should have the proper background to do so.
But this simply isn’t true. And as years go by in GSS, I continue to see this more and more. Executives and business partners who could use a training course or two. But they think because they’ve done it before, and have been successful (in their opinions) they are experts.
When you take a look at the final contract pricing and business terms, the naked truth reveals itself.
I’ve seen a range of price gouging that could easily change the business’ bottom line. Service level agreements with loopholes big enough to drive a semi through (that’s only IF they are there in the first place!). Or paying more than 75% of a contract upfront. It can drive you mad if you have to deal with it on a daily basis.
I think it’s easy to forget how big of an impact these things can have. Especially when it can affect the quality of the product or service you are receiving. Even just getting something to show up on time without defects.
This is why having someone who has been trained, has the proper resources and preparation tools and benchmark insight and information is so important. It’s not one of those skills you can pick up on the fly if you really want to become an expert.
So what can you do about it?
Well if you’re in Sourcing there are tons of seminars, courses, and books to attend. These specifically are focused on contract negotiations and strategies (including BATNA, Hard Bargaining tactics, etc.).
If you’re just part of the business and want to “get your feet wet” so to speak and learn the tricks of the trade, there are tons of resources for you too. Even reading just the right book or two is extremely useful from my viewpoint. But none of it really matters if you aren’t continually practicing.
Since complex supplier negotiations aren’t an everyday occurrence, there are other ways you can practice. First and foremost, in your daily life. See if you can get your partner or friend to do something they normally wouldn’t ever think of doing. Like having kids or getting married. KIDDING! Try to negotiate a free dessert or free drink at a restaurant. Even role-playing with a coworker during lunch will help to strengthen that skill.
Just don’t hire that cat to walk your dog. His negotiation skills are strong, but yours have to be stronger! Otherwise, you know you run the risk of getting taken to the bank in more ways than one.