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Why it’s time to adapt to the virtual world: how to master online negotiations

Why it’s time to adapt to the virtual world: how to master online negotiations

Virtual communications are now the norm, but whilst we may all be familiar with sealing deals on Zoom, how many of us are masters in negotiating well online? Here, Tony Hughes highlights the top five advantages of negotiating online and how to master this sort after skill.

  • Virtual negotiation interaction

Whilst you may feel you are already experienced in negotiation, the skills you have mastered may not always translate to the online world. It’s important to practice your negotiation skills within a virtual environment now, to futureproof your virtual negotiation style. Start by initiating internal negotiations and meetings virtually. Use this as an opportunity to test and assess skills sets, and where there may be breakdowns in communication. Having this valuable experience under your belt will allow you to identify any sticking points you need to overcome as a business, early on.

Something to consider from the offset if you're starting virtual negotiations in the immediate future, is to avoid a reference to “the current crisis” and “bearing in mind the unprecedented times we are living through”. Nobody is unaware of the present circumstances. A lazy negotiator may use COVID-19 as cover to justify price positions or proposed contract terms when in reality, it might have no bearing one way or another. A skilled negotiator on the other hand will spot this, and it then morphs into another trap for the unwary: argument dilution. Be mindful of this in your approach.

  • Attend from anywhere

The beauty of virtual negotiations is that you can attend them from anywhere. Whether you’re in a different room, city or even country to those you’re negotiating with – it simply doesn’t matter. This makes them much more efficient, reliable and easier to organise and manage. However, these perceived benefits may have a direct impact on the negotiation process. With less restrictions around timing and availability, be sure that you are entering the negotiations prepared. Don’t be pressured into negotiations until you are ready – this includes preparing and planning your responses around the objectives and fallbacks the other party have. Ensure you have a thorough understanding of what you both want to achieve from the process.

Of course, another real benefit to negotiating virtually, is that all the tools of the negotiator’s trade can be spread out on your desk (or kitchen table) for you to consult and annotate. That’s a liberty you could never take in to a face-to-face meeting. The things you want to see but you don’t want the other party to see are all there for you to use and benefit from.

  • Reduced travel restrictions

Whilst great for cost savings on travel expenses, resource and availability, there are some drawbacks to virtual meetings. Now that meet ups can be arranged at the drop of a hat, it can leave you exposed to dirty tricks in negotiation. Issues such as calls being planned at the last minute and being sprung on you with little time to prepare, meetings being recorded, and not being able to fully gauge the mood of the room can be a real challenge. Try to counter act these negatives with a transparent, open and honest negotiation stance. If a meeting is being arranged that provides you with little time to prepare, don’t be afraid of proposing an alternative time that better suits your needs. Likewise, if the room is hard to read, use proven negotiation techniques, such as testing understanding, to ensure you remain on the same page.

  • Practice new skills

The most important element of negotiating virtually is clear communication. Communication skills are often overlooked in sales and negotiation training – which can be a costly mistake. The way we deliver our proposals when negotiating virtually can make the difference between a good deal and a bad one. Be sure to avoid common irritators – these being words or phrases which have the potential to irritate through self-praise or condescension, lack any persuasive function and are used to describe a person’s own position or proposal. Examples are words such as: ‘fair’, ‘reasonable’, ‘generous’ etc. and a more recent one we previously mentioned ‘due to the current situation’!   These words may irritate, and shut down conversations that are essential to your negotiation. 

  • Increased productivity and efficiency

You may find that virtual negotiations are much more productive and efficient compared to face to face ones. Discussions may flow much better and messages can be shared more rapidly via video-conferencing. Because people are in the comfort of their own environment, you may also find that there is a more relaxed tone to conversations, which means that ultimately decisions can be made faster, projects are executed on time and productivity is increased. Also, if all parties are agreeable, the use of annotation and chat tools, and even the little red recording button, are good ways to banish post factum arguments about exactly what was said and agreed.

However, when in this environment, it is important not to be cajoled into a false sense of security. Apply the same level of caution to negotiations as you would ordinarily and utilise any extra time you may have to your advantage with more in-depth negotiation preparation, so you’re not caught off guard.

This article was published in Global Banking & Finance, IT Supply Chain, CCR Magazine, Business 365, and BDaily News

About the Author
Tony Hughes

Written by Tony Hughes

Huthwaite's CEO, Tony actively promotes the cause for sales and service excellence, and is part of the judging panels for the National Sales Awards and The National Business Awards. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to Sales and Marketing, in 2010, Tony was presented with the inaugural ISMM Lifetime Achievement Award at The British Excellence in Sales and Marketing Awards.