Len Riley\n\u00a0\nHave you ever completed a major negotiation and wondered why it was so difficult?\u00a0 Your instinct may be to direct the blame toward your partner.\u00a0 I suggest starting with self-reflection.\nSelf-reflection is not natural.\u00a0 It is a learned behavior requiring time and honesty. \u00a0You may find your company spends little time reflecting on its partnership approach due to negotiation fatigue or competing priorities and politics associated with a \u2018post-mortem.\u2019\nSuccessful companies take a step back to analyze internal issues, reflecting on their challenges. \u00a0These top 10 considerations can serve as a starting point to enable you to improve future negotiations and partner relationships.\n1. Understand past relationships\nIt is rare that a single executive has managed a relationship from inception, so it is important to understand the complete historical context.\u00a0 Successful companies invest the time required to understand the past to inform the future.\u00a0 Failure to put your expectations into a historical context will lead to missed opportunity, and a loss of credibility with your supplier.\u00a0 Be sure to understand the historical context to leverage and avoid certain topics accordingly.\n2. Appreciate your predecessors\nIt\u2019s easy to step into a role, evaluate a vendor relationship, and \u201cblame the dead guy\u201d \u2013 the past owner of the vendor relationship \u2013 for a situation you find yourself in today.\u00a0 Many current relationship owners are still working with those who have managed or influenced the past relationship.\u00a0 Experienced executives understand the risk these colleagues may feel as a result of reevaluating a relationship. Their opinions can provide an opportunity to influence today\u2019s relationship, your process and your success, either positively or negatively.\u00a0\n3. Recognize existing stakeholder expectations\nMost strategic relationships include various internal stakeholders, whose success is dependent on the ability of the vendor to deliver.\u00a0 If you are the lead negotiator and you lack an appreciation of their priorities, rest assured your internal stakeholders will certainly address their requirements directly with the vendor, resulting in a loss of internal continuity.\n4. Treat your relationship as a journey, not an event\nTargeting a quarter-end deal is not a strategy.\u00a0 Strong management understands that a relationship and negotiation strategy must be stage-crafted around a series of carefully sequenced internal events and subsequent vendor interactions.\u00a0 They understand real leverage is either achieved or diminished, based on their ability to strategically plan and navigate a collective series of interactions at the right time and in the right manner.\u00a0 This is the level of strategic thinking your vendor partner is executing, too.\n5. Know your company\u2019s reciprocal relationships\nHave you ever heard the adage, \u201cWe like to do business with people who do business with us?\u201d\u00a0 Certain vendors operate in industries with significant buy-side and sell-side relationships.\u00a0 Those experienced managing these types of relationships are not na\u00efve to the implications, and they understand the importance of internal alignment and aligning to holistic relationship objectives.\u00a0 Ensure you\u2019re aware of how any new vendor relationships will impact any existing reciprocal relationships.\n6. Consider any IT and procurement disconnect\nThe disconnect between procurement and IT is often evident.\u00a0 The introduction of IT Vendor Management Organizations (VMOs), in many cases, has driven procurement to become more defensive and controlling in nature.\u00a0 But procurement and IT would be well served to support the positioning of each other as partners in the process.\u00a0 Left unresolved, the vendor may expose this division and executive leadership will be underserved.\n7. Focus on managing a dynamic strategy\nWe all wish for the day corporate, line of business, and information technology strategies will be in harmonious alignment.\u00a0 In the meantime, we must deal with the challenge of aligning evolving strategies with vendor capabilities.\u00a0 Knowing what to buy, when to buy it, and who to buy it from requires a thoughtful process.\u00a0 Without a clear point of view and commercial construct to grow your relationship as your strategy evolves, you can bet the vendor will oversell your organization.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\n8. Know what good looks like\nMany have learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.\u00a0 A \u201cgood deal\u201d from the perspective of an executive, application leader, infrastructure leader, procurement leader, legal, etc., might be entirely different.\u00a0 Ideally, your organization will agree on what good looks like (on big ticket items) long before the negotiation commences.\u00a0 Alternatively, you would be \u201cselling\u201d the deal internally in parallel with the vendor negotiation -- been there, done that -- good luck!\n9. Don\u2019t neglect communication\u00a0\nCommunication, communication, communication.\u00a0 In the context of strategic partner relationships, communication is a challenge given executive level relationships, multiple internal stakeholders, cross-functional teams, and the influence a vendor exerts on an organization to drive the process. It\u2019s essential to establish a formal and informal cadence that will keep pace with the negotiation to ensure all parties are in alignment.\u00a0 Lack thereof will certainly lead to unproductive misunderstandings. \u00a0\n10. Select a \u2018Consigliere\u2019\nIt\u2019s not realistic to have an executive manage a strategic vendor relationship or negotiation at a detailed level.\u00a0 He or she must designate an individual to lead their team and manage the vendor \u2013 someone with a high degree of internal and external credibility.\u00a0 This role is essential to the relationship and negotiation and ensures the executive has an underlying confidence in the team.\u00a0 Without this role, you can bet your process will lack velocity, the relationship will be challenged, and the executive will be compelled to question the team and to protect their credibility.\nSelf-awareness is always an advantage\nMany will point to vendor capabilities, sales strategies, negotiation tactics, pricing and business practices as relationship obstacles, which all have merit.\u00a0 However, I would venture to guess that most find their \u201cinternal negotiation\u201d to be more difficult than the actual external vendor negotiation.\u00a0 In the end, leading from within is the first step to successfully managing a vendor relationship and negotiation.