Anchoring Doesn’t Have to be a Problem …

… or even a concern, if you approach negotiations in a fact-based manner, instead of a seat-of-your-pants manner, like most negotiations are approached.

What are we talking about? We’re talking about the tendency for us to fix our thoughts around a particular number, point, or fact rather than thinking logically and independently about a decision. In particular, the fixation that occurs when people consider a particular value for an unknown quantity before estimating the quantity. From that point on, the estimates then stay close to the number considered, even if the estimate is way, way off. The absolutely proven phenomenon discussed in detail in the public defender‘s recent pro piece over on Spend Matters + on how to hone your procurement negotiation skills by learning the right way to think (fist part free, full article requires membership).

Anchoring happens if you begin your negotiation or event with a price that is based on current price, a recent supplier quote, a market index, or some other number that may or may not have any basis in reality. Anchoring is avoided if you start with a price that is based on a should cost model, for a product, or an amalgamated index by a large analyst firm or statistics bureau for services category.

The should cost model should be based on a detailed cost breakdown that takes into account raw material costs (at market indexed rates), average labour costs for a region, average overhead costs, and any advances in production technology. A current cost, a current market cost, or even a project cost from a trusted supplier is not a should cost – and negotiations should ALWAYS be based on should cost. It might seem a waste of time for a product you’ve sourced ten times over the past ten years, or a service that you’ve paid the same rate for from three different manpower suppliers over the past three years, but that’s a very small sample of the market price at large, or the should cost price.

So do a detailed should cost model (or, for a service, detailed market research and break it down against average salaries available through a number of portals, augmented with standard contractor / manpower / outsourcer mark-up) and start your negotiations around that reasonable, logical, point — even if it’s half of what the supplier is quoting. Remember, you can scream that they take their unreasonable cost off the table or you walk because you can say “look, I have a should cost model right here that backs up the reasonableness of my number — so we’re starting within 20% of this and adjusting as necessary, or we’re not starting at all”.

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