There have been a number of new challenges and ways of working to get used to in the last year or so. For many people working in the procurement and supply chain sector, handling negotiations on video conferencing platforms has been one of the hardest things to get used to. The rapport you can build from face-to-face encounters is diminished, and many of the visual cues that make up a productive, natural, and enjoyable conversation are lost over the ether.
Our ways of life are tentatively edging their way back to a new normal. But while the transition takes place it’s vital we do all we can to optimize these new ways of communicating and do our best to counter the downsides. From adjusting your body language to managing the meeting agenda, read on to discover some top tips for handling video negotiations.
Make yourself as visible as possible
So much of our communication is enhanced by our body language. When the majority of your physical presence is removed you need to make the best use of what the other parties can see. Here are some tips for making yourself as visible as possible on-screen:
Take time for the personal touch
In normal times, we’d have the time it takes to walk from the elevator or reception area to get to know the person we are meeting with. Without this ice breaker, we need to be more creative in our approach. When you start the video call, consider acknowledging the strangeness of the situation, or asking the person something a little different about their experience of lockdown. We’re all a little over-used to answering the standard questions so try to mix it up a bit, if appropriate. What’s been your most unexpected experience in lockdown or what has this experience taught you about your neighborhood, for example.
Whatever you decide to do, make time to have a small chat at both the beginning and the end of the call. We are all still human, after all, and it’s the goodness and positivity that people will remember.
Make sure your tech is up to scratch
We’ve all had that moment where a carefully prepared presentation is ruined by poor connectivity or a counterpart’s face freezes in a horrible grimace. Sometimes it is unavoidable but try to do everything you can to prepare for contingencies if things go awry. You could email documents shortly beforehand, for example. Or arrange a link to an alternative conferencing platform as a backup.
Assign clear roles to your team
Negotiations can get even messier when there are multiple team players involved from either your side or your counterpart’s. The last thing you want is to be talking over each other at a crucial moment or muddying the waters when you are clarifying your offer or standpoint. Decide in advance who will be handling the introductions, the different parts of the negotiations, the summaries for the next steps and when there will be opportunities for questions. You could also choose a mediator to keep people in check.
Clarify the purpose of the meeting
This follows on from the previous point and it might sound obvious at first glance. But if you have had ten meetings in a row that day and have lept straight onto this one, having a confident voice at the beginning stating exactly what everyone is here for, how long it will last, and clarifying the aforementioned agenda and roles is a godsend.
By this, we mean the view of yourself on your chosen video conferencing software. It is incredibly distracting when you’re talking to someone and you know they’re watching themselves, or checking their appearance. The aim of the call is to communicate with others and not giving people your full attention is pretty rude. It can also make you feel more self-conscious which is not the emotion you’re after when you’re building rapport or closing that important deal.
We hope you have found these tips for handling video negotiations useful. No doubt we are in for some more interesting times ahead as we continue to learn to live with the COVID-19 pandemic. If the team at Bramwith can help you and your business prepare for the future, or to upskill your team - or if you’re seeking a new challenge in procurement and supply chain - please get in touch. We are more than happy to help.
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