If You’re Still Negotiating With the Carrot and the Stick …

… you’re not getting anyone’s attention but good ol’ Bugs. And, generally speaking, giving all the hijinks he causes, it’s best if his attentions are focussed on your competition.

So how should you be negotiating? With facts. Preferably binders of facts (but they can be in e-form on your tablet — no need to kill trees unnecessarily.)

Facts that show:

  • you know what the product should cost to make,
  • you know what margin should be healthy for the supplier,
  • you know what value-add services the supplier can offer more economically than you,
  • you know what performance metrics are reasonable, and
  • you know what the market offers are right now (and whether or not the supplier can beat them).

Suppliers don’t respond to sticks if they believe you really need them and they can get away with what they want, nor do they respond to carrot if other customers seem more enticing. Plus, they will wonder what crawl-out shelter you just climbed out of because no one from a modern organization negotiates like that anymore.

Especially if they are a typical sales organization that is all about the relationship (and talking win-win even if their definition of win-win is win for the organization, win for them at bonus time) or a more modern, Gen-X led, millennial-influenced organization that’s all about the synergy.

In the first case there will be value pitches followed by claims no one can do what they do as well and lots of smooth talk to get you off guard for when they indicate that their price (even if it has a margin that is twice industry average) is really as good as it gets and the latter will try to entice a deal from the synergy.

But regardless of organization type, every organization will respond to fact-based negotiations. With fact-based negotiations, they can’t hide fat margin behind claims of high cost, high-value, or synergy as the only way they can dispute your models, metrics, and market insight is to provide their true costs (or own research from third parties if they expect their costs to rise over the expected contract term).

And the above isn’t that hard to gather. It might take some elbow grease and a category expert, but once you’ve built the proper model and identified the proper data sources, it’s quick to update.

All you need for a fairly accurate should cost model is:

  • the bill of material break down
  • the typical energy required to produce one unit (kWh)
  • the typical labour required (labourer hours by labourer type)
  • the average industry margin

If it’s a contract manufactured product, you have this, if not, you can get an industry expert to help you craft a typical bill of materials. Your current supplier, or an industry expert, should be able to roughly estimate the typical energy overhead (based on typical production process). Similarly, your current supplier (or industry expert) should know average labour requirements against the production line.

All that’s left is understanding the acquisition cost of the materials, energy, and labour. Most raw materials are traded on exchanges, so it’s easy to get an average market cost. Most countries either have electrical utilities as state owned organizations or as highly regulated private organizations with standard prices per kWh. And most countries or labour bureaus compile average labour rates. Industry insight gives you standard margins, and you can see it’s not hard to build a reasonably accurate should cost model with expertise and elbow grease. And since the only way for a supplier to challenge it is to provide their costs, you can get even the model more accurate if their costs are actually higher. (And if they don’t challenge your model, then its relatively accurate or their costs are actually lower. In the latter case, they might get a bit more margin than you want to give in negotiations, but chances are you’ve lowered your cost as well with the model.)

This just leaves an identification of what services they can likely offer more economically, which again comes down to good modelling, and performance metrics (along with cost / profit impacts), which you should be gathering across your supply base. Then you can negotiate for better performance metrics (with penalties if they are not met) with an incumbent that isn’t doing as well as they should and wants to keep the business, or baseline metrics with a new supplier that wants the business based on current average performance across the supply base for the metric in question.

So gather your facts, and give yourself a true edge in negotiations.

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