Good note-taking can go a long way

Negotiation agendas and meeting minutes prepared by your team are important. Make that very important. Your team should develop a formal agenda for every negotiating session with a potential supplier.

The benefits are many: You'll prepare better; you'll be able to control the meeting and the vendor more easily; you'll ensure that the points you want to address are addressed - and in the right order (some points become more or less important if related issues are won or lost); and you'll be able to use your team members more efficiently (group topics so that team members who are specialists in one or two need to be there only when their topics are discussed).

Why should you run vendor meetings? Because you've got what they want - the money.

Failure to record the results of negotiations in a clear and concise manner can lead to disagreement between the parties over what was actually discussed - or agreed to. The confusion will lead to protracted negotiations - and perhaps mistrust - between the parties. The cure is simple: Make sure someone on your team takes complete and accurate minutes.

It's also useful for scribes to be in on your planned tactics, objectives and team roles. Actually, it's interesting how much the note-taker can control the negotiating session itself. He can request clarifications during a strong bargaining initiative by the other side (to slow its momentum), recall previous points that support your objectives and control the tempo of the interaction. In short, controlling the documentation of negotiation information helps keep the vendor in check.

If the one of the members of the negotiating team is assigned the scribe's role as an ancillary task, the results may be unfortunate for two reasons.

First, the quality of the minutes may suffer because the scribe is more focused on another role in the negotiations.

Second, the scribe's performance as a member of the negotiating team may suffer from a lack of focus.

Having a full-time scribe emphasizes that taking minutes is important and will be done thoroughly.

The scribe should attend every negotiating session to produce and document meaningful results.

To get things started, before or when the negotiating session begins, provide the potential vendors with a negotiations protocol, which states the following points:

• The customer will provide a meeting agenda and a dedicated scribe.

• Either party may request that the scribe read the notes regarding a particular negotiating point.

• Copies of the minutes will be provided to both parties.

• Discrepancies will be reconciled either outside of formal negotiating sessions or at the next negotiating session.

• The potential vendor may propose issues to be included in the agenda for the next meeting. Notice the control on this point.

The agenda will determine the sequence of the negotiation minutes.

You can have the scribe prepare a minutes template that lists each negotiation point from the agenda. Subheadings under each point can include "our position," "vendor's position," "discussion comments" and "status" - such as resolution of the issue. Using this format, the minutes provide a clear trail to understanding how the current status was reached.

After each negotiating session, the minutes can be used to update team members who weren't in attendance, update or modify the team's negotiation plan and help develop the next session's negotiating agenda.

The minutes are also very useful in preparing the final contract if they capture specific contract language as it was agreed to during the negotiations. Save all of your notes, since having the negotiation notes along with the contract can be very important later in the event of a dispute. You may want to eventually establish intent, the basis for an agreement or how you were induced into the agreement.

Most customer teams could improve greatly on preparing for, controlling and documenting each negotiating session. The meeting agenda and minutes are powerful tools.

So get better at determining what's going to happen, controlling what happens and documenting what happens - and you'll see better results.

Joe Auer is president of International Computer Negotiations Inc. (, a Winter Park, Fla., consultancy that educates users on high-tech procurement. ICN sponsors CAUCUS: The Association of High-Tech Acquisition Professionals. Contact him at

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon