There is a negotiation skills gap. This gap arises because negotiation is usually a skill that we acquire through practice and observation. We start by observing our parents, how they negotiate or don’t negotiate with us as children. As we grow up, most people pick up negotiation skills informally from their bosses, peers, by reading ghost written books by celebrity business men and finally, we learn by doing. However, what we miss out on is a formal evaluation of what we are learning and practising. We are also limited to what we experience or seek out, thus limiting ourselves. Given that the impact of negotiations can have both on our company’s bottom line and our personal lives, why are we neglecting our negotiation skills?
We don’t always know when we are falling short.
The problem with assessing our negotiation skills is that our failures aren’t always self-evident. To be sure, when you fail to land a deal or know the terms of a deal are unfavourable to you, you know you failed the negotiation. However, most of the time, our lack of good negotiation skills do not manifest in dramatic, easily detectable fashions. Rather, bad negotiations and bad deals are far more subtle and insidious.
If the skill gap between you and those you are trying to negotiate with is high enough, you might well leave the table thinking you got a good deal when you haven’t. However, that scenario too is rare. What usually happens is that one person in a negotiation is just quick enough or skilled enough to capitalise on an opportunity the other unwittingly creates. For example, we might suggest a compensation number that’s far lower than what we could have received had we let the other party put a number on the table. The lack of knowledge that means that certain clauses that were in the contract with Company A that are not included in the contract with Company B when they should have. It’s the little failures that add up to hurt the company bottom line and even your personal wealth. After all, one of the first negotiations any procurement professional undertakes is the negotiation to get the job in the first place.
It’s a skill that you can learn.
In the last few years, hard skills of technological expertise and data analysis were pushed for development. Soft skills such as negation are skills are still as important as ever and something that cannot readily be replaced with AI or machine learning. So why is it that we don’t focus on soft skills? One reason is that a lot of soft skills have traditionally been labelled as “innate”. Charm, charisma, confidence and other skills people associate with successful negotiation on top of tangible skills such as being informed and prepared are seen as unteachable. This is nonsense.
Negotiation skills can be taught and improved upon. But the first step is always to identify clearly what your personal skill gap is. The skillsGAP analysis, and specifically the Negotiation profiling tool focuses exclusively on negotiation, it can help you identify the gap in your capability. The next step after that is to undertake negotiation training through the Academy of Procurement. Lastly, analyse your behaviour during negotiations, reflect on what you do and why. Consciously bringing to bear what you have learnt to make better deals.
For chalk and talk, see our open training calendar for a session, date, location and time that suits you.
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