Monthly Archives: April 2012

Shopper v. Negotiator

The goal of The Smart Negotiator® workshop is to have you leave seeing the world as a negotiator NOT as a sophisticated shopper.  Every day people participate in the negotiation process and then return to their office and argue in a linear fashion that because I have participated in a negotiation that “I’m a negotiator.”  You must realize what a “disconnect” this conclusion really is. There are many people who participant in the negotiation process that I would never describe as negotiators.  Most people are nothing more than tourists or shoppers that sit on the bus and wave at the deal as it goes by. It all happens around them and they come home with a deal and had little to do with its creation.  They basically made a decision not a deal.  I know that decision and deal both begin with the letter D and this can cause some confusion.  However, these words are not synonyms.  So herein lies one of the major distinctions between a shopper and a negotiator—A shopper goes to a negotiation situation looking for a deal….A negotiator goes to a negotiation situation and creates a deal that does not already exist before they walk in. This is not a casual nuance between the two parties.  Don’t be horrified when you send a shopper to do the job as a negotiator when you discover what they come back with.  Authorship is important.

There is one word I tend to use in this situation and it is accommodate.  If the other party discovers you as a shopper they will accommodate you. This means that they will create the deal put it in a nice package put a red bow on the top and sell it to you.  The problem occurs when you arrive back to your office and open the package and the deal in the box is skewed heavily toward the author and the author is not you!

Kenneth Burke a communication scholar coined the term “terministic screens” which are filters that we view the world through to help us interpret reality.  We all have educational and occupational biases and paradigms that we have been taught to see the world through.  These biases and paradigms are terrific for the jobs that we do and is why we are good at what we do.  However, none of these biases and paradigms transfers to the world of negotiation.  These filters skew our vision of the negotiation process.  More specifically, if you enter into a negotiation situation thinking like an engineer you are toast!  If you enter into a negotiation situation thinking like a program manager you might as well go home and through yourself on your sword!  If you go to a negotiation situation thinking like a financial analysis school is out!  If you are going to do this well…and well is the operative term…you need to talk think act like a negotiator from the time that you get up in the morning until the time you put the cat out in the evening. And when you stand in front of the mirror getting ready to face the new day if you don’t see a negotiator looking back at you how can you expect anybody else to see one. Remember they will accommodate you!

Technology is another culprit that contributes to our skewed vision of the negotiation process.  In our contemporary business environment we have a number of technological tools that are designed to make us work more efficiently.  Sourcing professionals for example have computers connected to the internet that can collect information on almost any product or service in the world and that information can be imported into an excel program with established parameters that can produce a decision within seconds.  The scenario that I have just described for you is a very sophisticated shopper with a very sophisticated set of tools. Many would argue that this is progress and negotiation is time-consuming.  They simply can’t negotiate everything because of their demanding workload.  Consequently, they use these technical tools to do work and reserve negotiation for deals of significant consequence.  This mentality begs the question, if you don’t use negotiation skills routinely what makes you think that you can summon skills you don’t have because the context requires it?

As early as the 1960’s, Marshall McLuhan, a professor at the University of Toronto, studied the impact of media and technology upon the culture. He believed that the participants of the culture pay a human price to use technology.  The price that we are paying in technologically advanced cultures in the 21st Century is the erosion of negotiation as an artful business skill-set.  It is the equivalent of the functional illiterate.  Consequently, shoppers can create agreements without negotiating by simply using the data that they have collected and make a decision instead. Now that I have your attention and got you thinking, I would like for you to answer one question for me: “are YOU a negotiator or just another sophisticated shopper completing a task?”  GAME ON!


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