Daily Archives: August 7, 2013

What The A-Team Can Teach Us About Supplier Negotiations, Part I

Today’s guest post is from Mason Lee, Manager of the Strategy and Operations Practice at Archstone Consulting, and Matt Kucharski, a Senior Consultant in the Strategy and Operations Practice at Archstone Consulting, a division of The Hackett Group.

From 1983 to 1987, The A-Team delivered five seasons of action-packed episodes to its cult following. The ex-U.S. Army Special Forces unit, turned mercenaries, were constantly on the run for a “crime they didn’t commit”. The four “soldiers of fortune” who made up the team were Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, Lieutenant Templeton “Face” Peck, Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, and Sergeant First Class Bosco “B.A”. Baracus. The sitcom has left its mark on popular culture through its iconic van and catchphrases. But the creators of the A-Team were unlikely to be aware that they were also providing us with valuable lessons in Supplier Negotiations.

Supplier Negotiations are a critical step within the Strategic Sourcing process. After profiling a category, developing sourcing strategies, and engaging the market, it is time to more personally engage your potential future state supplier(s). The Hackett Group’s point-of-view on Strategic Sourcing Negotiations is that it is a team effort. Your A-Team should be comprised of individuals with different skill sets in order to increase its strength and ability to adapt.

“Face” – The Frontman
“Face” had a knack for making friends everywhere. “Face” was the master of the win-win, excelled at breaking the ice, and had an ability to get both parties feeling good. On your negotiations team, “Face” is the persuader and consummate influencer of the group. Use your team’s “Face” to open up the meeting and set the tone or when negotiations get rocky, consider channeling your inner “Face” to diffuse the situation.

In the show, “Face” also had a knack for scrounging up whatever resource the team needed no matter where in the world the team was. You can apply this invaluable ability in business. When negotiating with incumbent suppliers, chances are that there are opportunities for you to become a better customer. Give your incumbent the opportunity to constructively communicate what is not working optimally for them then send your “Face” back into your organization to locate a solution.

We had a negotiation in which our supplier and buyer were equally frustrated with each other (to the point of shouting and nearly ending the relationship) because the supplier was missing orders and the buyer’s orders kept changing. Our “Face” intervened, calming everyone down and eventually helped the supplier revise its planning systems all-the-while also going back into her buying organization and securing commitments to provide better forecasts.

Come back tomorrow for Part II!

Thanks Mason and Matt!