Negotiation in the Purchasing Process

Supply chain negotiation can be simple or complex

Meeting between client and adviser.

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Negotiation in the purchasing process covers the period from when the first communication is made between the purchasing buyer and the supplier through to the final signing of the contract. Negotiation can be as simple as trying to obtain a discount on a case of safety gloves through to the complexities of major capital purchases.

A purchasing professional must aim to be successful in their negotiations with suppliers to obtain the best price with the best conditions for every item that is purchased.

Smaller Supplier Base And Long-Term Contracts

The negotiation process has become a more important sector in the supply chain process as companies look to reduce their expenditure while increasing their purchasing power. This means that purchasing professionals have to negotiate increasingly better rates with suppliers while maintaining or increasing quality and service.

In the past, companies had a long list of suppliers who they would purchase different items from which required purchasing resources to spend limited time on negotiating the lowest prices. The best solution available was to compare list prices from catalogs and select the vendor based on that information. The trend over the last decade has been to rationalize the supplier base and enter into long-term agreements with single-sourcing. This offers companies the ability to negotiate significantly lower prices for items that they were purchasing from a number of separate vendors.

Vendors Are Partners

The emphasis in negotiation moved away from lowest price scenario to negotiating with fewer vendors to obtain the lowest price with the best service, quality, and conditions. The aim of companies was to reduce overall spending rather than negotiate the lowest price with a large number of vendors, which did not give the best overall result.

The negotiated long-term contracts with a smaller supplier base have produced more of a partner relationship between buyer and supplier. The relationship can become less adversary which benefits buyer and vendor. In a partner type of relationship, the buyer will encourage the vendor to increase quality and service, and the vendor knows that by doing this the partnership will continue with a renewed contract with guaranteed sales.

Negotiation or RFQ

Non-government purchasing departments continue to offer a range of prequalified vendors a request for quotation (RFQ) for items or services that it wishes to purchase. The competitive bid process can produce a range of bids and conditions that the purchasing department will evaluate and then award the business. This may or may not involve some form of negotiation.

Most negotiated business will involve items or services that are not necessarily definable by an RFQ. The purchasing department and the vendor will negotiate more than a price. The negotiation will usually cover what is to be manufactured or what is the extent of the service to be provided, the warranty, the transportation services, technical assistance, packaging alternative, payment plans, etc.

Purchasing items or services of a significant cost will require extended negotiations to arrive at a final contract.

Purchasing professionals are required to participate in these types of negotiation to ensure their companies obtain the best price with the most favorable terms, and staff may need to be trained in negotiation methods as it becomes more commonplace in a difficult economic climate.

Negotiation Objectives

Purchasing staff should enter all negotiations with clearly defined objectives. Without having objectives the possibility for the purchasing professional to concede on price, quality or service is significantly raised. The negotiator should enter into discussions with the vendor with precise objectives that they wish to achieve for their company.

The objective should not be absolute and should allow for some flexibility. However, the negotiator should also ensure that they do not deviate from the objectives and allow themselves to negotiate on areas that were not part of the discussion. For example, a negotiator may have worked with the vendor on their objectives on price and service, but not quality. When the vendor starts to discuss quality, the negotiator should refrain from any agreement where they are without a set objective.

Negotiation is an important part of the role of the purchasing professional. It is a skill that is learned, and training can help purchasing staff in understanding what is needed when negotiating with vendors.