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Is there a case for a Chief Negotiation Officer?

Ben Byth
Is There A Case For A Chief Negotiation Officer

Increased complexity, escalating disruption and uncertainty, and more scrutiny than ever in the business environment has resulted in an expansion of the C-suite. The CEO and CFO have been joined by Information, Technical, Risk, Sustainability, Customer, People, Operations, and more. As such - is there a case for a Chief Negotiation Officer?


Probably not – these days there seems to be a ‘Chief’ for every function in an organisation so the last thing we’d suggest is adding yet another one. 

It does beg the question though; in your organisation, who “owns” negotiation as a discipline?  Is it the CCO, the CPO, the Sales Director, the CEO or is it (as we tend to find in a lot of our clients) the case that nobody has responsibility for ensuring the continued application of best practice negotiation skill, strategy and process but instead it’s assumed to be something that everyone sort of just “gets”. 

It is not surprising that we regularly see organisations:

  • Under-estimate their negotiating power, leaving value on the table,
  • Deploy damaging negotiating strategy, wreck relationships and set terrible precedent,
  • Sacrifice long term strategic objectives to hit short term KPI’s,
  • And even unknowingly scuttle upcoming negotiations through seemingly innocent disclosure or concessions. 


Now, more than ever as we navigate into the recessionary environment, organisations need strong leadership responsible for aligning operational skills and technical knowledge with negotiating strategy and process.

We have seen the benefits organisations reap when they get this alignment right. A focus on strong negotiating process, behaviour, and culture affords:

  • A clear competitive advantage through doing more profitable deals, while putting less tension on relationships with suppliers, customers, and employee
  • Better alignment between organisational strategy and negotiating objectives/tactics, reducing risk of bad decisions
  • Increased collaboration internally between job functions. For example, service delivery teams feed ‘signals of flexibility’ and ‘possible trading variables’ back to their negotiating teams. 


The clients we have seen do this well have a common feature, there is ownership of negotiating as a discipline. For some it sits under a key executive, others create a ‘center of excellence – COE’ or a ‘negotiating factory’. What it is called doesn’t really matter, what matters is what it is responsible for:  

  • Introducing and managing a consistent approach to negotiations,
  • Ensuring preparation is comprehensive and rigorous through provision of artefacts and quality assurance,
  • Pressure testing of tactical negotiating objective alignment with strategic goals,
  • Aligning the behaviour across the business to support the negotiation team (eg. during the day to day operations what information is disclosed to counterparts / or feeding back signals of flexibility heard to lead negotiators)
  • Readying negotiating teams through pressure-testing preparations, providing advice and coaching, and facilitating simulations,
  • Encouraging performance improvement through de-briefing significant negotiations both successful and unsuccessful and disseminating the subsequent learnings,
  • Identifying and developing key staff to undertake significant negotiations for the organisation. 


Consistent, superior results in negotiating are not the result of luck or accident. Having deliberate ownership for this critical function will ensure consistently high standards of negotiated outcomes across the organisation.

If you're ready to create a strong negotiation culture in your organisation, click here to find out how we can help.

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