Is Technology a Game Changer for Negotiations?


In these times of rapid technological advancements, there is no avoiding the fact that an increasing amount of negotiations take place via technology. Understanding when and when not to use virtual solutions in place of traditional meetings is essential to your success. According to CBS Money Watch, a 2010 Meetings and Events Industry study found that 96% of meetings are virtual. Since then, technology has grown at an exponential rate, and virtual meetings have practically become the norm.

Many of the meetings now taking place online involve negotiations. Though face-to-face meetings can be done via Zoom, Skype or WebEx, is meeting via video conferencing really the same as in person?

Negotiating Technology

Technology can be wonderful, making business practices more effective and especially more efficient than ever before. However, the art of negotiation may be one facet of business that is best approached with both high tech and high touch, The Negotiation Experts suggest.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology impacts your abilities in negotiation, by looking at advice taught in the best classes on negotiation.

Negotiation Simulation Games

The business world and academia are just now starting to witness the emergence of realistic online negotiation simulation games. While online sims allow role plays to be facilitated in the classroom, the ‘game changer’ is the ability to train negotiation skills from afar.

Online simulation game participants experience minimum disruption to their working day, returning to their client or supplier meetings after a few hours of sharpening their negotiation game. The company saves on travel and accommodation costs, as participants attend from wherever they are based. Companies who conduct online sim game based training typically offer discounts when compared with their traditional classroom training alternatives.

Technology Offers Global Connection

Before disregarding technology’s rightful place in negotiations, remember that technology can be useful in certain situations. The ability for businesses to communicate on a global scale is one upside to tech, especially if travel isn’t practical.

Presenting your pitch to your global audience can be achieved with technology. The pitch will likely be more effective in-person, but for low budget startups and new companies, technology is a valuable option.

Virtual meetings are often easier on schedules as well, and it can be simpler to get stakeholders and potential clients to attend meetings online than locking down a time and place to meet up in person.

As global business goes mobile, innovation follows, making virtual meetings easier than ever before. In a perfect world, all types of discussion would be successful online. However, technology may hinder your power of persuasion.

Forbes contributor Nick Morgan notes that “A good meeting chairperson will constantly sense the atmosphere in the room and react accordingly—in a face-to-face meeting. That’s impossible in a virtual meeting.” Having a sense of the room is essential to a successful meeting.

When Does Technology Make Sense for Your Next Negotiation?

The theory of meeting online is that virtual communication is more efficient, costs less, and can get people together more easily than in traditional meetings. Some of these positives may be true. So when does technology make sense for negotiations?

Plenty of research has gone into the topic of negotiating virtually. Research and negotiation class lecturers have identified situations in which virtual conferencing technology process simply makes more sense than the alternative in-person meetings.

For example, if a deal has little room for creativity or added value, then technology can take the wheel. David Pearl, author of Will There Be Donuts, suggests that creativity and brainstorming are not compatible with the virtual negotiation process.

Virtual meetings can also be employed if discussions are one-sided from the get-go. Technology can also be useful if lawyers are simply doing most of the negotiating behind the scenes. However, the power of communication in the process can’t be ignored.

Connection Is Not the Same as Communication

Technology has certainly evolved the way discussions take place. You can connect with potential clients from anywhere in the world, but connection is not the same as communication.

How negotiations are conducted affects the efficiency of communication, how rapport is developed, the information shared, transparency, the business relationship foundation, and the ultimate win-win.

Phone and email negotiations have become more popular with the growth of mobile business. However, this rise in the use of phone and email in your practices can seriously hinder your ability to negotiate in a powerful way.

True communication is mostly nonverbal. Research suggests that 70% of communication is body language with most of the remaining 30% accounting for voice, tone, and the words you use.

Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation states, “Without access to gestures and facial expressions, those who negotiate at a distance have trouble accurately reading each other’s tone and building rapport.” Body language cues are essential and are lost when discussions take place via phone and email.

Putting Phone and Email Technology to the Test

Mobile technology is truly amazing. The technological advances have allowed many savvy business professionals to achieve goals in many aspects of their daily work. However, when it comes to negotiation, technology via phone and email falls short.

“Negotiation research suggests that e-mail often poses more problems than solutions when it comes to relationships, information exchange, and outcomes,” according to the Harvard Law School.

Research conducted by psychologists Dr. Nicholas Epely and Dr. Justin Kruger found a few phone and email discrepancies that can be useful for your next negotiation.

Dr. Kruger explains to the American Psychological Association, “But what’s different in this medium is … the ease with which we can fire things back and forth. It makes text-based communication seem more informal and more like face-to-face communication than it really is.”

Traditional face-to-face meetings are far better due to these findings by Dr. Kruger and Dr. Epely’s research.

  • Phone negotiations can build distrust. When compared to face-to-face communication, the level of distrust and debatable conversation increased over the phone.
  • Email negotiation:

Is too biased towards logic. If you are unable to gauge the temperature in the room, emotion and the added value that comes from emotional cues is lost. A great example is reading facial expressions for getting an idea of how the other participant really feels.

Is impersonal. When talking with potential clients, you hope to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship. Email negotiations can lose that personal touch needed to close the deal or keep a relationship intact for future business.

Lacks reserve. One important factor in negotiation is silence. Silence gives you and the other participant time to comprehend and reply in a meaningful way. Reserve simply helps move negotiations in the right direction.

Active Listening Is Lost

Technology has made the art of active listening in virtual meetings more challenging. Active listening is one of the most useful negotiation class skills you can possess. When it comes to online meetings, many people listen, but few employ active listening.

“The skillful negotiator orchestrates these aspects of active listening to draw out the other party’s concerns and feelings, with an eye toward asserting his own viewpoint and engaging in joint problem-solving,” Harvard’s Program on Negotiation suggests.

Successful negotiation classes impress the importance of active listening, which involves paraphrasing, inquiring, and acknowledging. Employing these skills allows you to develop vital questions, to not only understand your negotiation partner better but also to find those value points they may find it difficult to say no to.

The digital era has ushered in amazing innovation that has changed the face of business. Not all changes, however, have value. The nonverbal cues and active listening tactics you can use to your advantage during meetings in person are too invaluable.

Final Thought

Know when conducting business online is warranted, and when you need to be in the room for the win-win. The future of your business may rely on technology, but when it comes to negotiations, the traditional route is still the most powerful.

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