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It's A Virtual

Alan Smith
Negotiation Zoom Call

Having now run a significant number of virtual negotiation sessions, one of the core questions I get asked is how will the world of negotiation be impacted by our inability to get face to face with the other side(s), and what can we do to make negotiation more effective in this new world.

After all, this is not new. Even before COVID, communication has been drifting online at an alarming rate. In 2019 for example 39% of married couples said they had met via the web. In the COVID world, I suspect that number will soar.

Research suggests that 97% of students refuse to leave the house without their mobile phone or tablet, 18% of them spend more than 8 hours a day online. This is despite 92% of them believing that technology negatively affects face to face communication. You try talking to a teenager when they have their mobile phone glued to their ear!

Talking to one of my clients last week in New York, she told me that even when they can get together face to face, they suspect it will represent a much-reduced part of how they negotiate. It is so much easier to set up a Zoom/Webex/Google Meet/BlueJean etc. Plus, it saves money and time (travel being an expensive drag at the best of times).

So, what can we do to get better at it?

Well here is my none exhaustive list of tips to improve your negotiations (communication) virtually.

  • Upgrade your web speed if you can, nothing is more stressful than a slow connection. If you can’t go somewhere different, plenty of paces now offer free or cheap meeting space if you eat there. For big-ticket negotiations get in a space that you know (to the best of your knowledge) that it will work.
  • Get comfortable with the tech. Upgrade to the latest Zoom (or equivalent), they are all moving at pace to keep up with the needs of the new world. Don’t get left behind (and share links for the upgrades with the ones you are negotiating with). I would also suggest you practice screen sharing, opening and using breakout rooms, and maybe even a whiteboard connection to capture key points for your summary.
  • Do your preparation. Make sure you are utterly ready for the negotiation. What is it you want? Can you articulate it easily? What will you do if they say no? Or even worse, yes? Are you negotiating alone? In a team, do you all have roles?
  • Whilst the virtual world means we need to embrace brevity and speed, or we will watch them drift off, we should not miss the opportunity to try to build rapport. That comes from being attentive to their views, issues, constraints and needs. As Dale Carnegie once said, we gain more influence by being interested in the other side for 10 minutes than we do by trying to get them interested in us for 10 months. Ask loads of questions.

There are many other things to do and many more skills to add to your toolbox.

If you want to get really good at negotiating and gain all the benefits that virtual sessions can bring. Give us a call. Or maybe Zoom.


Alan Smith
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