How to Improve Your Online Negotiation Skills

Negotiation Skills

Throughout the uncertainty and turmoil in 2020, one thing that connects us all, whatever our line of work, or wherever we are in the world, is that it is highly likely we’re spending more time online than at any other time in our lives.

Whether you work in a profession that means you’re connected all day every day, or in a traditionally offline industry and you can’t work from home like so many of us have been forced to do, your total time spent online is likely to have increased.

With regional and national lockdowns meaning we can’t socialize as much as we would like, much of that time is now being taken up browsing our favorite social networking sites or shopping.

That might not sound like such a big deal until you actually start to drill down into what that means for our new, everyday lives. Zoom fatigue is very much a thing and, no matter how many quizzes you organize, there really is no replacement for socializing with friends in real life.

If you operate in the business world where interaction with your colleagues and clients is a necessity, it’s likely you have had to adapt more this year than perhaps at any other time in your career.

And, just like socializing with friends isn’t quite the same as it used to be, nor are virtual negotiations!

A Lack of Eye Contact and the Inability to Read Body Language

One of the major reasons that virtual interactions can’t quite replace real-life communications is because we cannot hold eye contact, nor read someone’s body language fully, when on a video call.

As humans we have evolved as social beings, subconsciously picking up on body language cues and microsecond adjustments in ways we will probably never be able to fully comprehend. These cues are vital in the art of negotiation when we can adjust to someone’s body language or change our style if we believe the message or deal is not really resonating with our target.

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Our Top Tips for Improving Your Online Negotiation Skills

With these drawbacks in mind, we can now take an in-depth look at how you can improve your skills during online negotiations. As with any discussion or dialogue there are, of course, different sides you can be on. During a negotiation this means you could be looking to either buy or sell a product or service, or be trying to talk someone around to your point of view in order to settle your differences. Basically, you are attempting to resolve the differences between you and the person you are negotiating with.

Because of this we have divided up the following tips into different sections. These are general tips, tips for trying to sell during a negotiation, and tips for trying to buy during an online negotiation.

General Tips

  • Be direct - We don’t mean this in an impolite way, but when negotiating online try to be as direct as possible. With potential time lag impeding online communication, you want to ensure your message is delivered loud and clear. Whether you’re looking to sell a product, make a purchase or purely to settle differences, being direct with your goals will benefit the whole process.

  • If the connection isn’t ideal, reschedule - Rather than try to power through with a poor Wi-Fi connection we recommend you pause the negotiation and reschedule to a later date, or you can use alternative channels to continue. If you continue a video conference call with a poor connection or internet that continues to drop out it is likely your message will miss the intended target and lead to more confusion.

Tips for Trying to Sell During a Negotiation

  • Listen first – One of the easiest ways to ruin your chances during negotiations, both offline and virtual, is to not allow the prospect to talk. How do you know their goals or aims if you don’t give them the opportunity to raise them? Let them open the conversation and build upon their key points to steer the negotiation in the direction you want it to go.

  • Ensure you’re talking to the decision maker – This is another tip that can be taken straight from the offline negotiation handbook. Just because the discussion has moved online doesn’t mean you should assume you’re talking directly to the decision maker. If it is a business discussion, the C-level manager you’re looking to land a meeting with may have their calendar handled by someone else so making this clear before any negotiations take place is key.

  • Your background is important - By background, we don’t mean previous professional history or upbringing! We mean what’s behind you on a video call. Would you really want to do a business deal with someone with a half-made bed behind them? Whether you like to admit it or not, we always look around on video calls searching for clues about the person we’re talking to.

  • Follow up - Ideally with an email, slack message or even text to clarify your discussion and next steps to act on.

Tips for Negotiating to Buy Online

  • Carry out real time due diligence – As with any negotiation you should carry out extensive research before entering into any discussions. However, one of the positives of online negotiations is that you can also carry out due diligence during the negotiation as well. Not sure if something you heard is quite right? Fact check it online in a matter of seconds. Want to ask specifics questions or carry out competitor analysis? Do so while you’re listening or building your point.

  • Seek an alternative marketplace if uneasy with virtual negotiations - If you’re looking to make a purchase and feel uneasy about the prospect of having to negotiate with a salesperson, seek an alternative marketplace or channel in order to purchase goods.

    You may have to pay a premium but today you have the ability to buy goods that in the past could only be secured through endless negotiations. For example, shopping for luxury goods has never been easier, as anyone who has ever purchased a vintage watch such as a Rolex can testify. Even buying a house is now easier and, yes the online real estate market is booming at the present!

Hopefully, these negotiation skills have helped you at a time when we now spend more of our lives online than ever before. Just like everything else in life, we’re having to adapt in order to survive and your ability to build rapport online is likely to be a valuable skill in the years to come.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Charlie, a marketer by day who was reluctantly forced into the world of negotiation after starting my own business two years ago. Rather than looking at business as war, I instead prefer to compare it to a game: a game in which learning as many rules as possible can help to get a head start when needed!