|Computerworld Articles by Joe Auer|
Driving the Deal
The Right Attitude
By Joe Auer
of the more important issues when I advise IT buyers is their basic
attitude toward contract negotiations. In many situations, the
end user or senior management has a friendly, close relationship
with representatives of the vendor. The vendor is referred to as
their partner, friend or the one with the solution to their problem.
As a result, these stakeholders, who must protect their company's
interests, can be less than objective in analyzing the vendor's
proposals, promises and provisions.
Whenever I brief the key players on the
customer's negotiating team, I use the following
"attitude adjustment" points, which are useful for all of us:
• Negotiations begin when the first
person in your organization exchanges information with the vendor.
You gain or lose negotiating power with every succeeding interaction.
• The customer is the buyer, and the
vendor is only the potential supplier. You've got what all the vendors
want - the money.
• Change your "needs" to "preferences." Needs
aren't negotiable; preferences are. Don't tell a vendor you need it,
its product or its service. Just say you prefer it.
• At negotiation time, the vendor's
sales representative has projected to his management that the deal
with the customer has already been sold. Use this to your advantage,
since the sales rep has placed the pressure on himself to close the
• Vendor reps face many pressures to
reach certain sales goals at various times, such as quarterly, annually
or when earnings are down. Be aware of these pressures.
Vendors will try to exploit almost any sense of urgency. Remember that
haste makes waste, unless your side is the better prepared, has alternatives
and sets a deadline that's to your advantage.
Generally, it's to the customer's advantage when vendors bring in their
top brass, as long as the customer is unimpressed with warm-and-fuzzy
talk about relationships and places on the agenda substantive negotiation
points to address with the vendor's executives. They have more to
give away than the sales reps do.
• Never rely on vendor promises and
benefits unless they're written in the contract, and hold the customer
personnel who trust those promises accountable.
• Vendor shareholders and senior management
are primarily interested in bottom-line profits and allocating risks
to the customer, not interpersonal relationships. Don't rely on these
relationships; vendors just use them to get what they really want.
Multiple acquisition methods (leasing vs. purchasing, short- vs. long-term
contracts) should be considered in most cases, though vendors will
try to give you tunnel vision that benefits their current performance
• The customer does have alternative
vendors, approaches and deal timing, and both sides should be aware
of that during negotiations.
Vendors must be aware that negotiations will end only when the customer
is fully satisfied and the agreement is fully documented.
• Ignore a vendor's claims, especially
early in negotiations, of
"That's the best deal we can give you."
• If you haven't heard a no from the
vendor or haven't experienced a deadlock, impasse or some sort of breakdown
in negotiations because you asked for too much, you haven't gotten
the best deal you can get.
Remember that negotiations are enhanced by thorough planning, knowledge,
teamwork and dedication to securing the best contract protections
at the best price.
• Most important, remember that competition
is your strongest ally. Don't select a vendor until you've gone through
competitive negotiations on everything, including the contract, with
at least two potential vendors.
You and the rest of your negotiating
team should keep these points in mind and review them like you would
review a checklist before each negotiation. After all, other professionals,
like pilots who have been flying for 20 years, still review their
checklists before takeoff.
JOE AUER is president of International Computer Negotiations Inc. (www.dobetterdeals.com), a Winter Park, Fla., consultancy that educates users on high-tech procurement. ICN sponsors CAUCUS: The Association of High Tech Acquisition Professionals. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright by Computerworld, Inc., 500 Old Connecticut Path, Framingham, MA 01701. Reprinted by permission of Computerworld.
Auer, ICN founder and president, has been an award-winning columnist for COMPUTERWORLD magazine.
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