Good afternoon, thank you for coming Thank you Maha for the introduction, and for inviting me here today to talk about something that’s core to my work, and that I’m consistently striving to improve on, building relationships with vendors and participating in effective negotiations. I work with vendors pretty much every day at the library, negotiating renewals, new purchases, or just discussing industry issues or building our relationship. I’m going to talk about some of the best things I’ve learned, and give you a basic checklist for your own negotiations, in about 15 minutes, and leave time for questions. While I talk about my experience, it’s good to keep in mind that negotiation, like any form of communication, is a very individual thing, and you may approach things differently.
And that’s my first tip – the biggest thing to keep in mind throughout any negotiation of relationship building is to be yourself. This doesn’t always mean being friendly, or talking to a vendor like you would a friend. This is still a business relationship. But in any work you do, you will be able to do a better job if you are doing it as yourself. This makes the easy, friendly conversations better, and it pays off huge dividends when the conversations get tough – you don’t need to worry about, on top of everything else, also pulling on a persona.
"Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.“ – Dr. Brene Brown
I have three key values that I keep in mind whenever I’m negotiating with a vendor (or just being a respectful, decent human being).
Honesty is the best policy in negotiations (and in life). Like being authentic, being honest doesn’t mean putting all of your cards on the table, it doesn’t mean exposing institutional secrets or specific details that you aren’t ready to disclose. It means not lying, not playing games, and will not lead to trust – which is the foundation of any good relationship. Once trust is damaged, it is very difficult to regain in any relationship.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place – George Bernard Shaw
Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life – Brian Tracy
My third key principle is communication. Communicate more than you think you have to. Communicate honestly, openly, and in multiple media. Remember, especially with verbal communication, that WHAT you’re saying is only 8% of the message. The rest is made up of body language, tone, speed, and other factors. And now consider how much communication we do over the phone, which eliminates many of those cues, and therefore a large portion of the overall message.
Enough big picture stuff. Let’s get into it.
Why negotiate? Why learn these skills, and practice them? If you’ve worked in libraries any length of time, you’ve watched the shift in library acquisitions – the shift from ownership of physical things on shelves to leasing of digital, ephemeral items. List price is no longer a reality, the first offer is never the best offer, and vendors are expecting libraries to negotiate. Developing these skills will help optimize your budget, serve your users more effectively, and enhance the value of the library to your organization.
These skills also pay forward in your personal life – you negotiate with friends, family, and yourself everyday. A classic example is negotiating with your kids about whether or not they should brush their teeth.
Preparing before the negotiation begins is essential. If you have time, or available colleagues, this is the time to get together and have the big discussions. If you don’t have other colleagues available, then it’s still important to set time aside and make sure you understand what the organization really wants or needs, what your deal breakers are, and what success would look like in this situation. Determine how important this resource is to your collection, what your top price would be, what your alternatives are if this negotiation fails, and if you’re really able to walk away if the negotiation doesn’t follow these guidelines. It is also interesting to consider what the vendor’s goals might be, so you can be prepared.
SMART goals are: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound – give an example of SMART goal – like a quote for x product within the established guideline, by Friday.
It’s also time to set your intention and mindset at this point. If you enter a negotiation focused on the opportunities, what could be achieved, and the potential for a win-win outcome, you are more likely to achieve those goals.
Aim low when you counter-offer. You don’t know what the publisher/vendor’s basement price is, and if you come in above it on your first offer, you’re leaving money on the table. Never accept the first offer, everything is negotiable. Even if price isn’t, perhaps license terms or available content are. Be flexible, and open-minded in your requests.
Keep detailed notes of every meeting, conversation, and interaction of any type along the way. This will keep you and the vendor honest, and provide a record of what happened, and what is decided upon along the way. Also, if negotiations take a long time, these notes can help remind you what has already been accomplished, or check an assumption after it’s been on the side of your desk for a few weeks while you waited for a reply.
Thank you for your time today. Do you have any questions for me now? If not, please feel free to get in touch anytime – when you’re stuck on a tough negotiation, or trying to remember something from this presentation months from now when you actually need to put it in use. And in case you need to find the slides again, here’s a tinyurl to make them easier to find.
Negotiation and Vendor Relations Tips
Building Relationships with
Jaclyn McLean SHLA AGM 2016