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According to a 2014 report by the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM), 80% of business-to-business contract negotiations are moving online. The numbers are even higher after the 2020 global restrictions on travel and in-person socializing. Most companies now appreciate the impact of training staff through a negotiation online course.
As suggested by the IACCM report, many businesses have realized that virtual meetings save them millions of dollars in travel expenses and hundreds of hours in time spent traveling. By understanding the dynamics of online negotiations, your team can leverage the best techniques to win more deals. So how can we most effectively engage with others when meeting online?
Observe Social Norms
While it can be tempting to jump straight into matters at the start of a video call, it’s important to take the time to observe in-person meeting etiquette. Fidgeting or attempting to multitask will stand out on a video call. Avoid typing on your computer or phone, and don’t move away from the screen. Even if you are listening, these actions suggest that you’re not really present.
When negotiating over text-based platforms, some modes of communication will likely come down to personal preference. When the only cues available are text on a screen, it may be challenging to adjust to the other side’s style.
For instance, how do you use capitalization? Do you send all-caps words to highlight a point? Also, do you use emojis and slang? As a general rule, keep communications formal but friendly, and take your cues from the other side.
Agree on the Rules of Engagement
Have you ever scheduled a virtual meeting, then one participant starts a text chat while another gets on audio as another jumps into the full video meeting?
To avoid confusion, agree beforehand whether you will engage in chat, email, video, or audio. Agree on what platform to use and ensure everyone has access ahead of the meeting. Also, alert all participants on who else might be joining the meeting. Will there be extra teams, advisors, or observers?
Some platforms such as Zoom allow a moderator to approve how and when people join a chat room. Agree in advance on who handles moderation and admin tasks.
Mind Your Surroundings
Be aware that everything around you can communicate something about you. Make sure your background projects an ambiance suitable for a meeting.
If you’re working from home, you’ll likely need to isolate one room for your use during the meeting. Pick a quiet room with no foot traffic. Be sure to be away from noisy appliances like fans and ACs.
To avoid distracting other participants, a blank wall or a plain digital backdrop can work well as your background. Sometimes, a more colorful or active digital background works better than a blank wall. On those occasions, choose an interesting background that may serve as a conversation-starter. Most major video meeting platforms now either allow the blurring of your background, or an image to be placed behind you.
Be Aware of Body Language
Are you already an expert in body language? If you’re successful in business or you’ve taken a course in body language, you likely already know the importance of what you’re conveying beyond the words you speak.
However, did you know that body language can be even more important when negotiating online? How you position yourself on video can have a significant impact on others’ perceptions of you.
Here are a few tips to make your body language more effective:
• Avoid face touching. Itching your nose, pulling at your earlobes, and smoothing of eyebrows signal nervousness, insecurity, and at times, dishonesty.
• Make eye contact by keeping your webcam at eye level and looking directly into the camera when speaking. Don’t sit too close to your camera when looking at the other participants. Getting too close to the monitor will divert your eyes from your camera, giving others the impression that they’re not looking into your eyes.
• Use hand gestures. It’s important to space yourself away from the camera so others can see your gestures. Hidden hands can indicate you’re not fully engaged in the meeting and reduces your perceived honesty.
• Sit up straight and avoid slouching. Sitting straight signals that you’re present and attentive while also conveying energy and commanding attention.
Also, remember to wear clothes you would typically wear if this were an in-person meeting. Appropriate outfits avoid accidental embarrassment if you have to stand up suddenly.
Develop Online Negotiation Strategies
The secret to positive negotiation outcomes is going in with a clear strategy you’re confident in. Businesses and people can still thrive with virtual-only negotiations, as long as they adopt effective negotiation strategies.
The best negotiation courses teach participants how to develop a winning strategy. Start by considering these four steps:
• Define your goals: What do you intend to achieve with these talks? What are your priorities? What can you compromise on?
• Understand your value: What unique value are you adding to the negotiation? How would the deal perform without your input? What would it cost the other side to partner with someone else? How suitable are you, compared to competitors, in making the deal easier or more lucrative? Consider your contributions in a positive light. Imagine how much you can lessen setbacks while increasing resources.
• Understand the other side’s leverage: What unique advantages does the other side offer the deal? Do others recognize the real value of your contributions? How badly do they want the contract to happen?
• Review histories: Who has made similar deals with you in the past, and how did they perform? Has the other side signed similar agreements? If yes, what did they need, and how did they live up to the contract? Be prepared to use past data to back up your points and improve the deal under discussion.
With the rise of distributed teams and flexible working, negotiations are increasingly going virtual. Digital communication tools can make talks faster, less expensive, and more efficient. While many people still prefer in-person meetings, smart negotiators can leverage virtual meetings to establish win-win solutions.
A course on virtual communications can prepare you for the online business environment. Take charge and build your virtual conferencing skills to start closing bigger and better deals faster.