In what seems like a strange message from a different era, a Harvard Business Review article in 2012 by Reed K. Holden, wrote about the games buyers play with vendors, and the fact that the relationship buyer “has been in steady decline.”
Holden, the author of Negotiating with Backbone, contended that the relationship buyer was replaced by the economic buyer, “who is in the grip of Procurement.” The economic buyer focuses on price and value, “is brutal about the buying process, browbeats the supplier, and puts the salesperson through head games. That’s because Procurement’s goal is to get the lowest price, relationships be damned.”
Have things changed since 2012? Well, yes…there is increasing evidence that collaboration and relational contracting are on the rise, and that browbeating is not a good strategy. But it is also a somewhat fragile reality, especially given the extreme uncertainties surrounding the current economic climate and the unknown short- and long-term effects of the pandemic.
Holden contends that vendors can get a better balance of power by recognizing that negotiation is a game, and that the buyer wants to put the supplier into at least two roles, such as rabbit or advantaged player.
I’ll leave to the reader to decide about the efficacy of those terms (and to read the article).
My take is that negotiation is certainly not a game and pigeonholing parties as players in some role-playing game is not productive, and is not the way of the present moment and the future.