11 Tricks to Efficiently Negotiating On-line
By Jeremy Cassell
Face-to-face negotiations may not be practical for many months. So how can you successfully negotiate a wide variety of situations? Here are some of my top tips to help you bargain successfully online.
First things first – let’s agree on a definition of negotiation so we all start on the same basis. A negotiation is a discussion between two or more parties that begins with a position of non-agreement. It is a process in which interested parties resolve disputes, agree courses of action, obtain individual or collective benefit, and / or seek outcomes that serve their mutual interests.
The art of negotiating is an important skill in business and will serve you well throughout your career. Whether this means getting better deals for your customers or negotiating a higher salary, negotiations are everywhere.
However, many business people have problems negotiating for a number of reasons: a lack of confidence, a lack of clarity about what they want, or they simply don’t know the basics of negotiating.
The good news is that it can be taught. These are the qualities that make a great negotiator:
- They have identified what they want.
- You put yourself in the shoes of the other parties.
- You will prepare a BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).
- They identify an optimal position and a fallback position.
- They understand that you need to differentiate between positions and interests. Interests are the drivers of all negotiating parties.
- You are asking the right questions.
- You separate the person from the problem and avoid becoming emotionally involved.
- Ultimately, you are prepared, have done thorough research and viewed the negotiation from all angles.
As you can see, you don’t have to be born with any of these traits. Anyone can learn to be an exceptional negotiator. With that in mind, here are my top tips for successful online negotiations. Whether you are a seasoned negotiator or new to the art, this advice should help you move on to the new normal with confidence.
1. Use your camera, not just the audio
Keeping the camera off is tempting, especially if you haven’t had time to make your top half look factual. However, I recommend that you turn it on to allow connection with the other parties.
Turning on the camera gives you access to additional information: How is the other party presenting themselves in front of the camera? Are they close to the lens or further away? Do you use hand gestures? These are things that you can subtly copy to build a relationship.
2. Customize the tone of your email
In real-world scenarios, you might mirror a speaker’s body language to calm them down. In the virtual world, it is not always possible to negotiate over a phone call. So a virtual equivalent of the mirroring technique would be to match a person’s email tone. Is your email long? Short? Informal? Formally? Resist your usual email template to copy yours.
3. Avoid emailing when resolving conflicts
Try to avoid emails while resolving conflict after saying how to set the tone of your emails. It’s all too easy for the sound to be misinterpreted. Instead, arrange a video conference as soon as possible. Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding a difficult conversation.
4. Summarize frequently
Attention spans are shorter for video calls. Many things can distract people during a negotiation – from email or Slack notifications appearing on the screen, to social media and distractions at home. It is therefore a good idea to summarize your discussion frequently as you move on to make sure everyone is on the same page.
5. Lobby in advance
Give yourself every chance of success by “pre-vacuuming” and lobbying. A great source to be inspired by is Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and his follow-up book Pre-Suasion: A revolutionary way to influence and convince.
Cialdini, known as the Godfather of Influence, offers practical advice to help you master his six basic principles for successful influencing and to convince the parties to reach an agreement before negotiations begin.
6. Prefer shorter meetings
A lengthy negotiation is painful enough in real life and quickly becomes unbearable online if it lasts longer than half an hour. Keep this in mind in your planning and encourage several short meetings on a mammoth. This will work to your advantage.
Other items from AllBusiness.com:
7. Spend more time researching and preparing
Preparation is key to any negotiation, whether online or in person. Here are some things you can do to prepare for a negotiation:
- Gain knowledge of the case and the customer.
- Set the agenda and goals.
- Assign roles when negotiating with a colleague.
- Talk to the customer and find out the negotiation parameters and fallbacks.
- Consider leverage and BATNA.
- Identify your interests and theirs.
- Identify the optimum and the fallback for all parties of the most important negotiation points.
- Brainstorming; Generate options.
8. Agree on the rules early on
It is important to manage expectations from the start. Before starting negotiations, all parties should agree on the rules of engagement. Write them down and share them with all parties before the subsequent meetings so that everyone will talk about them.
9. Use technology tools
Negotiating online can be more of an advantage than an obstacle. Use your platform to keep everyone informed and involved throughout the process. For example, use the breakout rooms for confidential discussions or use polls to vote or to assess where everyone stands.
10. Keep a positive attitude
Virtual or not, a positive attitude is key to a successful outcome. Work towards a win-win situation for everyone involved and expand your own comfort zone. If you don’t, others are taking advantage of your comfort zone preference.
11. Use silence
Finally and above all: Don’t be afraid of silence. It is tempting to fill virtual calls with conversation, but this puts you in a weaker negotiating position. Instead, listen actively, speak less, and let other parties fill the silence instead of jumping in.
Bonus: Important questions to be asked during a virtual negotiation
Ask these questions:
- How would you benefit from our virtual conference call?
- What do we need to focus on in order to reach an agreement?
- What are the reasons for this position?
- Why is this so important to you / your customer? On a scale of 1-10. . ?
- In your opinion, what is driving that?
- What other options might work for you?
- Is there a reason you can’t?
- What do you think is fair and reasonable?
- What evidence do you have that this is the best option right now?
- How do you feel about including this element in the final document?
- Which parts of my suggestion make sense?
- What would have to happen so that we can come to an agreement quickly?
Avoid landmine issues:
- Do you really think my customer will accept this?
- Won’t you agree to that now?
- Do you honestly expect me to believe that?
- Don’t you see – you’re just wrong?
RELATED: 16 Things You Should Never Say When Negotiating
about the author
Contribution by: Jeremy Cassell
Jeremy Cassell is a certified coach and bestselling author of several books, including The Leader’s Guide to Presenting and Great sale. For more than 15 years he has offered individual presentation coaching and group presentation training for many of the world’s leading organizations.
Company: Jeremy Cassell Coaching
Connect with me on LinkedIn.