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Book Review: Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals


Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals is the second book by Jonathan O’Brien that we have reviewed. Earlier this year we reviewed Category Management in Purchasing. While each of the books has a different focus, they have more in common than just an intended audience. The most striking similarity is a clear desire to improve the knowledge and capabilities of purchasing professionals by capturing O’Brien’s considerable experience and communicating it in a straightforward manner.

While some of O’Brien’s recommendations will be familiar to anyone who has read other titles on negotiation, he manages to include surprising bits of good humor throughout, including advice on preparing to buy a nuclear submarine, and how to handle it when you are trying to get a tribal mask onto an airline (after having happily overpaid for it).

There is a wise emphasis on preparation, self-awareness, and the reality of a situation versus collaborative altruism. In other words, sometimes a win-win negotiation is not required – just slice the proverbial ‘pie’ and move on. Even in win-win negotiations, sometimes a win is not so great as a WIN.

In the preface, the author states: “This is a practical book for anyone who buys and wants to negotiate more effectively with suppliers.” (xiv) The idea of striving for an ‘effective’ negotiation is a good reminder that as nerve racking as they can be, they are necessary for the management of supply.

For all the opportunities anyone can have to improve their negotiation skills, the best may be experiencing what an effective negotiation looks and feels like. This point speaks to O’Brien’s differentiation between negotiation skills and negotiation knowledge. Personality has an undeniable role in negotiation, as it determines how we are likely to approach a situation. The same is not true of identity, which can be assumed easier than personality can be changed. An identity is more closely linked to our behavior. As we may find ourselves called to play a deliberate role in a negotiation, we can assume a ‘negotionality’, or way of acting specific to a negotiation. (103)

I particularly appreciated the sales perspective O’Brien included in the book, as the focus of chapter 2 and then running as a current throughout. The chapter on body language, complete with pictures, provides wonderful illustrations as to how purchasing professionals can read and use unspoken cues in a negotiation. 

The other considerable asset of the book are the Red Sheet ® negotiation templates (available in the book and for download from Positive Purchasing). This framework and methodology can be used to support professionals through the entire negotiation process.

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