Controlling external influences in negotiations-the Real Madrid case

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The current high profile proposed transfer of Gareth Bale is all over the back pages as described by Jeremy Smith back in May 2013, Tactical Negotiation – Gareth Bale vs. Tottenham Hotspur FC.

What we are seeing is Real Madrid, the buyer in this case, adopts their traditional negotiation tactic of leveraging their strengths of reputation, glamour and most importantly money. Similarly to Real, buyers and suppliers should always try to emphasise their strengths and hide their weaknesses too. Rather than simply relying on trade-offs, successful negotiation are typically established on several situation specific variables, such as price, quality, relationship, duration, contract terms and exclusivity. People may not agree with Real Madrid’s approach, but ethics are difficult to quantify in the murky world of football agents, tapping up of players, and the potential to force breach of contract, and that does not stop Real Madrid trying every option available to them.

Negotiations, relationships and savings delivery

Procurement people know that negotiations are not done on a face-to-face basis with lots of stereotypical fist banging on the table followed by long silences. Whilst there might be a time and place for that, Real Madrid are proving that negotiations are seldom as straight forward as that: a good procurement practice identifies and utilises as many negotiation variables as possible.

In this circumstance for example, the buyer (Real Madrid) is using all its resources available including legendary ex-football players (Zinedine Zindane), current football players (Iker Cassilas), the players’ agent and the ‘free’ press (Marca). Their aim is to leverage the player power over that of the enforceable contract held by Tottenham Hotspur.

A thorough negotiation strategy is equally important in any B2B procurement savings delivery process. Whilst there is always a risk of the supplier digging their heels in to resist any negotiations, the key in delivering quick, mid-contract, cost savings is in identifying all the attributes that can be leveraged without the usual negotiation lever of an expiring contract. They are often not as obvious, but equally as powerful.

Maintaining relationships through sustainability

Taking the Bale analogy, where the process differs from B2B transactions is that Real Madrid do not have to consider sustainability, savings or relationship. Whilst each case is unique and based on the specific buyer-supplier-relationship, consideration of destabilising the current relationship, whilst maintaining the on-going operation, is a key aspect to sustainable negotiations.

It seems as if Gareth Bale has had his head turned by the negotiation tactics of Real Madrid. Tottenham are resisting based on an enforceable contract, but even if they are successful in retaining Bale for another year, what will be the long term implications on team motivation? Real Madrid are in the enviable position of being able to negotiate without concerns of sustainability giving them a considerable edge over normal B2B negotiations.

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