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Will Negotiation Bots Replace Humans? – Mark Raffan from Negotiations Ninja

  • 4 min read

Welcome back to The Procuretech Podcast!

We’re continuing our mini series where we ask influencers and industry experts for their thoughts on everything that’s happening in the digital procurement world.

This episode we’re talking about negotiation. And there’s no one more influential in the negotiation space than the host of the Negotiations Ninja Podcast himself, Mr. Mark Raffan.


Will Negotiation Bots Replace Humans? – Mark Raffan from Negotiations Ninja


We open up by asking Mark about his background: From sales and online advertising to category manager, before finally transitioning to content creation and his own negotiation training business.


We discuss Mark’s lengthy career in podcasting, now he’s over 300 episodes deep. He reflects on some of his favourite episodes. He gives special mention to an interview with Brain Burns, in which it’s safe to say they were not exactly aligned…


Going back to Mark’s time working in Category Management, to what extent did he come across procurement technology back then?

Mark mentions how common Coupa was back then, alongside niche players like Scout, which is now part of Workday. It’s very interesting to see how tech has progressed and it’s especially fascinating to Mark to see how the use of tech with negotiation has progressed.

We move to talking about the future impact of tech, and Mark highlights process automation and error elimination as huge benefits.


We talk about how the mid-market is still slow to adopt digitisation.


Looking at big platforms like Coupa and Ariba, we’re now seeing this sort of Salesforce model, where platforms put their own app stores in place.

This is almost an admission that these big players can’t be everything to everyone.

Especially when looking to the mid-market, having a modular structure that allows users to cherry pick features is hugely important.


We discuss the value of experience. When an experienced professional with over 30 years of experience leaves an organisation, how much can technology hope to fill that gap?


To what extent can technology replace humans when it comes to negotiation? Does Mark think we’ll ever see a robot able to replace humans when negotiating for something really complex and high end?


We take Grainger as an example. The whole reason Grainger exists is because a technical buyer or MRO category manager didn’t have the time to spend all day doing three bids and a buyer for something that cost $5,000.

AI can solve all sorts of problems- so as long as you’ve got a competent person evaluating the results to make sure that it’s not doing something stupid from time to time.


Mark breaks down the present and future of automating negotiations. He doesn’t think that truly complex negotiations can be carried out by bots yet. But he’s keen to emphasise the word yet in that sentence.

He would be very cautious about saying we’ll never get there. Because technology is achieving things today that we’d have thought were totally impossible ten years ago.


Nobody knows the answer for sure.

It’s not unrealistic to expect that we’ll be able to teach a robot to do very complex negotiations. But will we be able to teach them the emotional intelligence required to deal with cultural differences in negotiation between nationalities or between different cultures? That’s going to be the most complex part for AI to replicate.


Mark runs a negotiation training business. How does advancing tech impact how he builds his long term business strategy?


Mark thinks it’s very, very interesting to think about things like using AI to train people in negotiation. But he’s keen to highlight the fact that we’re both very biassed here.

Mark and I think about technology every day. That’s our business. But for most procurement professionals it’s not on their mind.

They’ve got operational concerns to focus on. They’re not really thinking about how technology is going to take them to the next level.


We’re getting there with adopting tech. And certainly some organisations are way more advanced than others. But we’re not there yet. Especially not in the mid market.


We wrap up this episode by asking Mark how you can get in touch with him. You’ll find all the relevant links below.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll catch you next time!

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