Inside the Box: Negotiation Season has Opened By Dave Edenfield

With Mother 's Day and Memorial Day now history, your thoughts are probably on a summer vacation at your favorite campground or fishing hole. As you grab your lucky hat and trusty fishing pole, you may notice another hat way in the back of the closet — your chief negotiator's hat. Before you start your vacation, take a couple of minutes to dust off that other hat and lay the groundwork for the negotiations that will start all too soon.

Are You A Negotiator?

Webster's says a negotiator is someone who confers with another party to arrive at the settlement of some matter. I've discovered that a negotiator is a lot more. They have diverse sets of skills and can use those skills to get what they want. A good negotiator is someone who can make others do things they don't want to do or buy things they never knew they needed.

To master these skills, you have to understand what motivates buyers to buy. Essentially, buyers need to increase top-line sales and margins while reducing shrink and markdowns. But they also want to make a bonus, reduce risk and improve the store appearance, just to name a few other concerns.

How do you determine the buyers' needs? The use of open- and closed-ended questions will qualify the scope and depth of the needs. Ask questions and wait for the answers until you have completely identified the needs. Remember, don't focus on a need you cannot or do not want to fulfill.

Plan Your Attack

Have a written plan for your negotiations. I'm not talking about a product listing; I'm talking about a game plan for the negotiations themselves. Ask the following:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Does the person I'm meeting with have the final authority?
  • Do I understand how the decision will be made?
  • Am I familiar with the process and timeline for a decision?

Before you even begin your plan, you have to know your facts — cost of input, distribution, sales and desired margin are just a few of the obvious ones. Additionally, keep in mind the value you offer through quality products, racks, lift gates and in-store service.

The Ending Point

There's another question you have to ask yourself — and it's a tough one: Can you afford to walk away from the order if things don't go well? It's imperative that you have the facts and can answer yes. If not, the buyer has all the power and you stop being a negotiator and start being an order taker.

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Dave Edenfield

Dave Edenfield is president of Visions Group LLC, a solutions group providing marketing, management and production assistance to the green industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or (440) 319-2458.

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