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    Gain Emotional Intelligence in Government Contract Negotiations

    In his breakout book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman presents and proves the theory that emotional intelligence (EI) can matter more than IQ in determining your success in government contracting work— or any other work, for that matter. 4  

    But just how do you develop emotional intelligence at work? Think of it as a balancing act. You must learn to pull intelligence and price substantiation from your counterparts—whether on the contractor or agency side—rather than push your position continuously.  A significant component of developing this ability is stabilizing how much people can trust you during engagements.

     

    What is emotional intelligence in government contracts

    It’s your ability not only to recognize your own emotions as they happen but also to have a positive effect on the emotions of others. There are four EI buckets, and then a dozen specific emotional characteristics spread out over the bucket collective: 2

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    Why is emotional intelligence necessary?

    You’ve been in the room–or the Zoom—when you had to present a neutral appearance as a negotiation went your way, though you may have been jumping up and down inside. You’ve also been in the room when you had to hide your disappointment as a negotiation slipped out of your grasp. Or stay very even yet empathetic when you had to deliver news to a supplier that may have shattered or even shuttered their business.   

    Effective management of emotions is probably one of the most critical skills involved in procurement, benefitting all roles. If you’re training junior people, EI instruction is vital to  include in their learnings from day one. You may have even indirectly measured candidates on the 12 EI competencies while interviewing people for procurement positions. These attributes are a great barometer to predict a new employee’s future success. 2

     

    Only bid RFPs where you have both a business-network and EI connection

    On the contracting side of the house, if a pricer lacks character or relationships in a proposal scenario, a potential partnership with an agency usually won’t happen. 

    So contracting firm leaders: Train your pricers not to chase random RFPs. Stop reactively bidding: If you or your pricer hasn’t done business with an agency customer, or you prove early in the proposal process that you don’t grasp or don’t care to grasp their needs, your probability of a win is tiny. You’re likely squandering time and resources.  

    This is the time for your pricer to network more at that agency and internally at your contracting firm. Have them dig deep to look for existing connections to people in that agency. Gain support. Build trust. Solidify their reputation, then leverage those connections for agency interactions like they’ve established emotional relationships internally. (Of course, we’re talking about business-related emotional connections here.) 1

     

    Take a more expansive view of the relationships you establish

    Many pricers and analysts don’t interact with their counterparts to build relationships outside the current contract they’re pursuing. It’s time to rethink this approach. When an agency is close to an RFP release, and you’re pushing hard to gain the intel you need, your agency counterpart will push back. It’s just how humans are wired. However, it’s far better to cultivate authenticity and understanding earlier in the acquisition process, as both parties can make their needs clear and innovate potential new approaches. 

    A lack of time can drain the EI from a proposal process even before the contract starts. In reality, the collaborative shaping of a contract at the pre-RFP stage can be a contractor’s most important way to leverage the proposal to their advantage. Solid EI skills can be more critical during this phase than any other. 1

     

    Understand people, not just requirements 

    Once an agency RFP is released, now you must navigate the process of shaping requirements with your agency, which requires trust—and that starts by understanding the people involved, not just the needs themselves. 1

    You also have to work to understand what motivates your internal teams. Do this by incentivizing everyone in your company to engage with agency connections, demonstrate human intelligence, and collect information on their EI potential to assure and smooth future dealings. Make no mistake: Developing internal relationships is just as crucial as developing agency relationships. Use a common language internally, like you would create an EI-powered vocabulary to use with agency customers. Contract wins are much more possible when you’re internally and externally aligned on EI. 2



    Follow your emotionally intelligent leaders

    Procurement tends to carry quite a bit of conflict since it’s negotiation-heavy. 

    Suppose you’re an enterprising junior employee on either the contracting firm or agency side. In that case, you could look for a leader in your firm who demonstrates high EI and then ask them to mentor you as a change agent in your self- and other-awareness development.  

    Again, someone with a medium IQ but a high EI is far more likely to be a great mentor than a leader with a high IQ but low EI. 4 

    Your mentor can usually detect interpersonal factors that may fuel an internal stakeholder’s resistance and a prospective agency customer’s. Often, they’ve mastered how to handle people who are highly resistant to budging on pricing, often being able to shift them from resistance to ally.

    When searching for a mentor to help you  develop emotional intelligence at work, here are some qualities to keep an eye out for:  

    Humility. An executive with high EI takes ownership of their mistakes and has a realistic sense of their strengths and weaknesses. They’re usually able to compensate by hiring others who are adept at their missing skills. Ego is almost nonexistent.      

    Self-regulation. A viable mentor candidate is aware of their internal state and its effects as they occur. For example, if a contract negotiation becomes mired in resistance, your executive needs to be able to stay balanced and reign in their reactions, transforming them into responses.      

    Collaboration. An effective mentor knows how to craft a collaborative approach with vendors or agencies to ensure future opportunities. Be especially careful of an agency leader who views a contracting vendor as simply a tool, which may cause them to miss opportunities for influence beyond the proposal.  

    Conflict. Your leader should be comfortable challenging others when it’s called for, moving your company or agency to a posture of total procurement transformation. A mature leader can handle others’ emotions—even when a passionate outburst may not match the situation.  A leader with an evolved sense of self knows the reactions of others are most often about those people’s own internal wiring. 3  

     

    Make proposal analysis and negotiation simple for both sides

    If you’re a contract pricer, you want to make the review and analysis of your proposal as simple and seamless as possible for your agency counterparts—by using the same proposal pricing software many of them use already.

    ProPricer Contractor Edition helps you streamline the proposal process during the phases of submission, cost and price negotiation, and contract award. In addition, the platform increases the speed and accuracy of your estimating cycle, which improves bid quality and eventually drives your firm’s growth.    

    Many agency analysts use ProPricer Government Edition for automated cost modeling and proposal comparison. When they receive your files in a complementary format, analysis through different lenses is easy, and negotiations transpire within the ProPricer platform itself. 

    There’s nothing more emotionally intelligent on your part than creating the smoothest runway for an award. To see ProPricer in action, sign up for a demo here  

     

    Sources 

    1. Washington Technology Article: How Emotional Intelligence Should Direct Your Government Marketing Plans
    2. Strategic Sourcing Article: Emotional Intelligence, AI, and Procurement 
    3. Supply and Demand Chain Executive Article: EI Key to Successful Procurement Leadership
    4. Book: Emotional Intelligence

     

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