Sunday, August 8, 2010

Negotiating Tips Part #2 - Logistics Services

Here is part #2 on some tips for negotiation with logistics providers. Missed part #1?

Never be the first person to name a figure...
This is an expensive lesson to have to learn, but a good one. I do a lot of contract work, and one of the first questions I'm usually asked is "What's your hourly rate?". This is a high pressure question, and I often found myself blurting out a figure that was lower than what I really wanted.

These days, I've learned the importance of getting the other person to say a number first. Now, I respond to that question by asking "What's the budget for this contract?". Often, I'm surprised to discover they're offering me a better deal than I thought they were.

Ask for more than you expect to get...
Once the other person's given their figure, even if it's much better than you expected, say something like "I think you'll have to do better than that". Don't be arrogant or aggressive. Just say it calmly.

When they enquire about your expectations, ask for more than you expect to get. Few people will walk away from a deal once it's commenced, and you can let the other person feel as if they're winning by lowering your "unrealistic expectations" a bit at a time.

Let them believe the final decision doesn't rest with you...
Once a negotiation starts, most people want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Let their impatience beat them. One great way of doing this is to let them believe the person they're negotiating with isn't actually you, but some other "authority figure".

Say something like "Well, I'll have to talk it over with my boss before I can give you a definite yes".

A skilled negotiator will always want to talk to the person who has the final decision, but don't let them do it. Say the person with the authority over the deal wants you to sort things out but still needs to have the final say. Tell them you'll discuss it and get back with an answer tomorrow. Ask them to make sure that's their best offer you can take to your "authority figure".

Don't act too interested...
Just giving the impression that you're willing to walk away can do wonders for getting a better deal. Always play the reluctant buyer or seller.

Don't leave the other person feeling as if they've been cheated...
Many people try to screw every last drop of blood from any negotiation. This is a mistake. If the other person feels they've been cheated, it can come back to bite you. They may not fulfill their part of the deal, or refuse to deal with you in the future.

Most negotiations should leave both parties feeling satisfied with the outcome. Be willing to give up things that don't really matter to you in order to create a feeling of goodwill. For example, if I'm renegotiating my order fulfillment per pick charge, or pack and ship rates downwards, I'll often offer to sign a longer legnth contract. That way, the provider has a commitment for my business for a longer time.

Ken is a 15 year veteran of supply chain logistics and has founded companies in the ecommerce fulfillment and transportation management software markets.