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Thu 15 Oct 2009 04:00 AM

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The art of negotiation

Although multi-skilled, Alan Millin, MSc. CEng FIHEEM, says facilities managers' skills around the negotiation table need to be honed if they are to get more for less, and do less for more - but all in an atmosphere of mutual respect and benefit.

Although multi-skilled, Alan Millin, MSc. CEng FIHEEM, says facilities managers' skills around the negotiation table need to be honed if they are to get more for less, and do less for more - but all in an atmosphere of mutual respect and benefit.

Consumers of facilities management services are discerning customers. What they were satisfied with yesterday, they want improved today. What they paid for FM service wise yesterday is often seen as too high today. They want to pay less today for a higher quality service than they received yesterday. We should not be surprised or offended by this, it is simply business.

The customer will always try to get more for less. The more we give, the more they will take; naturally.

As providers of FM services, we too are trying to reduce the cost of doing business to maintain or improve margins. We strive to provide the required service at minimum cost. Put another way, we want to deliver more for less.

When we are trying to win new contracts we want more for less. That is, we would like to earn as much money as possible for as little output. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. We are, after all, in business to make money, just like our clients, but we do need to demonstrate value if we want someone to buy our services.

Good FMs are experts at doing more with less and more for less, whether constrained by in-house budgetary limits or external factors. We are, therefore, just the same as our clients, we want more for less.

How to get more for less

So how de we get more for less as we face today's harsh financial realities?

When negotiating a contract each party will be aiming for the same goal: more for less. The ability to negotiate well is therefore a valuable tool to have at our disposal.

Facilities managers are, out of necessity, multi-skilled professionals. But just how multi-skilled are we? How multi-skilled can we become? When does the learning curve straighten out? Can it ever straighten out? It seems that the more we do, the more we are expected to do.

Our skill sets are never complete, but do we focus too much on the technical side of FM skills when we prepare our personal development plans? Do we adequately consider our soft skills needs when we perform our own training needs analysis strategy?

Negotiating is a key skill that few of us are adequately trained in. How often have you attended negotiations where the other party has asked for more and more in return for less and less?

How often have you or your team conceded too much too easily around the negotiating table? Skilled negotiators are trained. They know how to probe for weakness, what to ask for, how hard to push and, importantly, when to back off. They also know how to counter the other party's demands.

Start negotiating

Remember that if you concede something and get nothing in return the other party will ask for more, you will have exposed your weakness. They will keep asking until you finally have to dig in and refuse their demands or actually start negotiating, something you should have done at the outset.

With only a little training you will be equipped to see the other party's demands and probing questions coming before they even voice them. You will have your answers ready before you get to the meeting.

Useful article

To get you going there is a useful article that introduces ‘27 Principles of Negotiating with a Meeting Facility' at

. The first principle alone is well worth everyone's attention - check it out.

There are lots of other information sources available to help boost your negotiating skills, so dive in now.

After we have developed our skills we can then use them to help meet our business and personal goals.

Performance review

Winning contracts at favourable conditions or successfully negotiating discounts from suppliers is great for your company, but don't forget to keep a record of your achievements. When you have successfully negotiated a price reduction from a supplier, for instance, the transaction is often recorded in the company files at the final terms, with little or no record of how those terms were arrived at, or who should be credited with improving the company's bottom line.

At performance review time it might be useful to be able to highlight your negotiating successes. Perhaps you can point to savings of millions of Dirhams which would otherwise go unnoticed.

 If you don't keep the records to promote your own worth, it's a safe bet that no-one else will either. You negotiated the benefits for your company so document it and make sure it's on file. Next you can negotiate the rewards for yourself.

Performance review

Go ahead, perform your own training needs analysis, prepare your personal development plan and then implement it to negotiate your way up the career ladder.

Use your negotiating skills outside work too, and save money for yourself.

One final thought... When the negotiations are over both parties should win. Going into the negotiations there should be an atmosphere of mutual respect and willingness for both sides to benefit from the final outcome.

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