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Where to Begin?

Brian Buck
Scotwork Comic Master 2022 New Logo
© Scotwork NA

One of our clients needed help with a strategically important negotiation they were about to embark on. They just went through a complex RFP and were trying to tame an existing overbearing supplier. Time was of the essence because contracts were expiring soon. It was no surprise that their first question to us was, “Where do we begin?”

In this kind of engagement, we usually start with a simple question like, “What do you want to achieve?” Our client stated that they wanted to bring their supplier under control. They mentioned that they got great information from the RFP, and they wanted to use it to squeeze their supplier. They explained various threats and sanctions they could impose as well as incentives they could offer to get the supplier back in line.

However, their biggest problem wasn’t how to do so, but what they were actually trying to achieve. It’s one thing to say, “Tame the existing supplier,” but it’s another to define that.

One of the most common issues we see when consulting with clients about their deals is a lack of definition around success. Ambiguity creates opportunities for disappointment. If you’re not specific about what success looks like, you can’t evaluate a deal you’re negotiating.

When we ask clients to define what a successful deal looks like for them, it’s not uncommon to hear things like:

  • More revenue
  • Reduced costs
  • Protecting the margin
  • Growing the business
  • Winning the deal

Without specificity, none of that matters. Therefore, the real question is, “How will you measure success?”

Let’s assume you and your boss decide that “more revenue” is the primary objective of your upcoming negotiation. If you get one more penny of revenue, will you be happy with that deal? Will your boss be happy? Someone will likely be disappointed in this scenario, even though, technically, you got more revenue.

It’s not enough to set a specific target for what you’re trying to achieve; you need to also set a specific limit for what you’ll accept before you reject or even walk away from a deal. (Again, “maximum amount” or “least amount” are not specific enough.)

Being specific in what you’re trying to achieve will help you in a variety of ways:

  1. It creates alignment. Specificity helps ensure that everyone is clear on exactly what you’re trying to achieve.
  2. It helps you understand flexibility. By setting specific targets and limits, you know what kind of flexibility you have on positions.
  3. It helps you evaluate a deal. Only once you know what success looks like can you evaluate how well you did.

So, what do you do the next time you wonder, Where do I begin? Start by defining what success means to you. Be specific. Once you know where you’re going, finding a path to success gets a lot easier.

We Can Help You Hit Your Negotiation’s Goals.

Specificity keeps your deal’s results on target. Talk with a Scotwork expert today to draw on their nearly 50 years of real-world experience and hit the bull’s-eye in your next negotiation outcome.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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