Are we born to negotiate?

5 July 2009

06 July 2009 | Allie Anderson

More than a third of buyers think good negotiation skills are natural rather than learnt, according to the latest SM100 poll

Of those surveyed, 36 per cent of respondents said they believed negotiating ability is innate. Many expressed the view that although training can improve skills, the foundations have to be in place to start with.

Gary Moore, procurement performance manager at BAE Systems, drew an analogy between negotiation and running. "You can be a good runner and train to be better," he commented. "But without the right physiology you'll never be a great runner."

Neil Dixon, procurement manager at Leaseplan, described the key attributes of style, approach and timing as "far more instinctive than taught." He also stated that the negotiating abilities we naturally exhibit as children are lost later in life as we become more "polite and respectful".

Another purchasing manager also said a "natural urge to test, debate and negotiate an offer" is often evident from a young age.

He commented: "I believe that an individual is naturally more inclined to negotiate from an early age and you can see this even with children who are able to exert more control over their parents." A natural ability to communicate well is key, said Stephen Regaldo, corporate procurement officer at the London Borough of Lambeth.

Supplier relationship manager at Britannia Group, Shaun Evans, agreed, suggesting non-verbal communication is also important.

Over half of respondents, however, believe that negotiating skills must be learnt. Most of these cited planning, preparation and training as important factors.

This is vital when negotiating as part of a team, suggested director of London University Purchasing Consortium Andy Davies. Establishing ground rules and knowing when to sit tight and when to pitch in is essential, he added.

Adam Smith, purchasing manager at Morgan Advanced Ceramics, argued that there is far more to successful negotiating than being able to "deliver the patter".

A total of 11 per cent of respondents insisted that sound negotiation skills are a combination of both nature and nurture.

Sarah Billson, director of Tickling The Trout, commented that learning the theory complements any natural flair a buyer may have.


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