The perfect first impression is one where your suppliers immediately know that you are a negotiating force to be reckoned with. Whether you are entering a collaborative or a competitive negotiation, you want your suppliers to be uncomfortable negotiating with you to some degree.
Notice that I said "uncomfortable" not "intimidated." Many negotiations today are collaborative where the two parties exchange ideas that adds value to the business deal instead of dividing it, so intimidation is bad. But a strong first impression will keep your suppliers from taking advantage of a procurement professional who walks on the fine line that separates a win-win attitude from an over-compromising disposition. Believe me, some suppliers look for signs of weakness and exploit that, even in the context of a supposed win-win negotiation.
Do you know what variables are involved in creating that perfect first impression? There are probably more than you think! Here are just 20 variables...
- Whether you are found waiting for the supplier in the conference room or whether you enter the negotiation when it is scheduled to begin
- The firmness of the grip of your handshake
- The duration and intensity of the eye contact you make with the supplier
- Your posture
- Your use of slang ("Hey, John") vs. slightly more formal language ("Good afternoon, John")
- The speed at which you speak
- Your ability to have facts memorized vs. having to look them up
- The volume at which you speak
- The relative amount of "filler" (e.g., ums, ya knows, I means, etc.) you use while speaking
- How well-groomed you are
- How well-dressed you are
- Your facial expressions
- Whether you nod affirmatively when being spoken to or hold your head still
- How others on your team refer to you (e.g., "Jimmy," "Jim," "Mr. Smith," etc.)
- Whether or not you delegate tasks to others on your own team during the negotiation
- What you bring with you to the negotiation (e.g., electronic devices, soft drink cups, etc.)
- How organized your materials are
- Whether or not you've insisted on an agenda prior to the meeting
- Whether you or your designee drafted the agenda or allowed the supplier to do so
- The title on your business card (too many executives bring one to a negotiation and that's a mistake - having a tangible reminder in front of the supplier that you are a high-ranking individual is never a bad thing)
If not, I hope that I sparked a little interest in you doing so and that you can make the best possible first impression in your next negotiation. Use these points as a checklist for things to think about during your future negotiation preparations.
Stay tuned...some time in the future, I will be providing some additional and detailed insights into the rights and wrongs for each point. For now, if you're interested in learning more about negotiation, consider the following online course options:
- Negotiation No-No's (an Express Course)
- Powerful Negotiation For Successful Buying (a full-length course)
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer - Next Level Purchasing Association
Author - The Procurement Game Plan
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