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Learning to COMP over coffee

I recently caught up with a friend of mine for coffee and our conversation eventually turned to Procurement and in particular negotiations. He was frustrated at his lack of progress when negotiating contracts at work and asked for my thoughts on this.

I quickly went through a list in my mind of some of the tools and techniques used in negotiations starting off with identifying the problems being faced to the interests of parties, justifications used, anchoring, BATNA, deal options, ZOPA etc.

I realised these were standard techniques that most professionals would use. There had to be something more. My thought process led me to bring up the art of Comping.

Negotiators often want to take the lead and perhaps the limelight too when negotiating contracts. However, as a professional negotiator, you need to know when to step back for a while and then take up the lead again if necessary. In fact, you don’t always need to take the lead. Whilst actively listening, you can often try and steer the conversation and influence the outcome by shaping the other party’s behaviour. No doubt each party will try and convince the other of their stance and position. A face expression, nod of the head, encouragement or constructive statements can often lead to a positive outcome.

I sipped on my coffee and said to my friend, if you find yourself in a position where there a number of issues on the table which are going nowhere, try and pick up an idea no matter how small that both sides can work with and discuss it. This will bring about trust, relationships and eventually credibility.

I continued, no doubt when negotiating, you will meet people with different styles. Comping is a way of finding ideas to bring out the best of all parties whilst actively listening. In the end, we all need to comp but have to decide on whether we want to focus on the positive things on the negotiating table or continue to dwell on the negatives and not close out the deal.

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