IBM, Microsoft and HP are the three best negotiators in industry, a survey has found. The companies took the top three spots in a piece of research that sought to find the companies that were the most able negotiators.
IT companies made up half of the top 10, with Cisco and Oracle joining their rivals in the chart. Industrial and energy giant General Electric (GE) was named twice, for its selling activities at number five in the chart and for its buying at number six.
The survey was carried out by the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM), a trade body for contract managers. It is the IACCM's first collection of negotiator votes. The organisation said that it wanted to produce "an objective analysis of the behaviors and characteristics that enable success".
"Our primary goal is therefore to encourage the spread of good negotiation practice. We aim to do this by highlighting top performers and describing the approaches that helped them reach this position," said its report.
The IACCM produced a top 20 of sellers and of buyers, and an overall top 100 league table of negotiators. IT and software companies made up 20% of the companies nominated, but half of the overall top 10.
The IACMM's report said that a consensus emerged during the course of the research about what made for good negotiators.
"Many believe that flexibility is the most important characteristic of ‘good’ negotiations. But in fact this survey reveals that quality of planning is considered most important, with teamwork tied for second place with flexibility," it said.
"The reason that planning matters so much is that it tends to confer authority and clarity during the negotiation process," it said. "This contrasts with the behaviour of many sales groups which may offer flexibility, but leave concerns that their promises will not be met."
The IACMM said that participants' admiration for flexibility was not reflected in their voting patterns.
"The companies that emerged at the top of our list of the most admired are not necessarily renowned for their flexibility. Indeed, some are among the least flexible," it said. "Their success was based on the perception that they knew what they were doing, they promised what they could achieve, they met their obligations and they were able to explain their negotiating positions in ways that – if not entirely acceptable – could be understood ."