Last week we covered some key tips and considerations when negotiating virtually – namely around being aware of some of the limitations of video conferencing and the importance of investing in quality technology.
We have some additional considerations and tips from our consultants below:
APPLYING KEY NEGOTIATION SKILLS IN AN ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
Negotiating over a webcam is not the same as face to face. Our overall advice is to slow the pace down, be deliberate with the words and information you provide and be concise. The main game here is to convey the relevant information to get the point across. If the software you’re using has screen sharing capabilities, take advantage of this and use this to demonstrate the relevant information!
When negotiating online, sometimes important information such as pricing or dates can be miscommunicated or overlooked. Summarising can help mitigate this! Take the time to summarise what your counterparty has conveyed to you and ask them “Do I understand this correctly?”. Likewise, ask them to summarise when you have shared information. This way, you can agree what is agreed or clarify any points of misunderstanding or contention.
Picking Up Signals
So how do we pick up signals when we aren’t in the same room as our counterparty? Although this can be more challenging than when face to face with our counterparty, we need to make the best despite the limitations. One key tactic to apply when negotiating online is to ask questions to surface these signals! Try asking your counterparty “Just suppose we moved the date forward would you be able to do X?”. By asking these probing questions we are moving the conversation forward and testing for areas of flexibility.
If the video conferencing software that you use has the breakout room functionality, take advantage of this feature.
Adjournments give you the opportunity to:
- Consider new information and make appropriate decisions
- Revise a strategy if it is not working.
- Debrief with your team.
- Reflect and cool off.
- Bring in outside people to discuss, e.g. technical team, or someone of authority.
ONLINE NEGOTIATION ETIQUETTE
With many of us working from home, the likelihood of distractions and interruptions has increased greatly. These situations are sometimes unavoidable. If this is the case, share a quick message via the chat function to let the others in the meeting know that you need to jump off the call and also mute your microphone and turn off your camera. When you return, taking a moment to ask for a summary so you can get up to speed and continue to move forward.
Preparation = Punctuality
It goes without saying, punctuality should be a common courtesy regardless of whether you are negotiating face to face or virtually – though sometimes our best intentions can go astray.
If you are the host of a meeting/negotiation, it is worth beginning the call 5 minutes early. This eliminates the possibility of keeping the other party waiting, provides an opportunity to iron out any tech issues before you get into the nitty-gritty and also allows some time exchange pleasantries and break the ice.
When scheduling your meetings, try to leave 10 minutes between engagements (particularly if you have been in back to back meetings) – this gives you time to revise your preparation and go into the meeting feeling refreshed and alert.
Having an agenda for pre-planned meetings is imperative so the main issues are covered and hopefully resolved in the time allocated, and there is less chance of running over and eating into other engagements for both parties. It would be helpful to circulate the agenda beforehand to drive efficiency and allow the other party to gather any necessary information required.
Speaking and Listening
One of the trickier aspects of holding meetings and negotiating online is not being able to pick up on nonverbal cues or subtle nuances from the other party. We may not know if someone has finished speaking, or is trying to get a word in. Video conferencing allows us to have several people in the virtual meeting room, but it’s not necessarily the case that all members are fully visible or engaged as they would be face to face. The camera may be turned off, the view may be set to active speaker only or the window may be minimised.
Some simple tips we would suggest to help with this are:
- If you are negotiating in a team, define your tasks ahead of time. If you’ve completed our Advancing Negotiation Skills program you’ll be familiar with the tasks of Leader, Summariser, Observer – these are particularly handy when in an online environment. The leader will be making proposals, providing opinions, sharing information and making concessions. The summariser will clarify, ask questions and summarise when required and the observer will provide tactical advice by listening for signals and analysing where you are in the process. Having these tasks in play during a virtual negotiation can help with the exchange of information, picking up on signals and making sure that both parties are on the same page. Additionally, your team may pick up on things that you have missed.
- If you are negotiating on your own, make an effort to hear the other person out and ensure they have finished their point before you take your turn to speak. We are often not truly listening but rather thinking of what we want to say – this means we often miss key information, or signals in the form of qualifying words or questions being conveyed to us.
This is a helpful feature when it comes to the argue step and the exchange of information. Sometimes there is confusion when trying to explain complex information. In person, it is easy to alleviate this by using a whiteboard or flipchart for further clarification, but this can be challenging in the virtual environment.
If you notice that the other party is struggling to understand what you are explaining, make it easier for them by sharing your screen to show relevant information. Perhaps it is a presentation via PowerPoint, or graphical information. Consider inbuilt features such as the blackboard in Zoom, or apps such as Microsoft Whiteboard, which serve as virtual flipcharts to help you illustrate your points and ensure that both parties are on the same page.
We hope these tips and considerations will be helpful when you are planning your next online negotiation. If you’ve got any questions or could use a hand with any upcoming negotiations, get in touch with us via the callback request button at the top of the page.