I have mostly heard negative feedback around video calls and not being able to meet face-to-face to negotiate and agree business deals in the post Covid-19 age. The fact is and will remain that the connection between people will always be best established in a personal format.
However, there is also plenty of good news when it comes to deal making in the digital world. While we may sacrifice some of the easy ‘feels’ that accompanies face-to-face meetings, we also gain the opportunity to bring a few potentially game changing techniques and tactics to our game, which can only be realised by using digital means of communication and more specifically, through using video calls to connect with our counterparts.
So, far from being discouraged about the lack of personal interaction, there are plenty of reasons to be excited if you invest the time to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to harness the reach and scalability of digital connections.
Here are three things that you can do immediately to significantly improve your likelihood of closing great deals using video calls:
1.Track your performance
What you don’t measure, you can’t improve. For the first time, just about everyone can capture data about their negotiation approach. In the past you would have looked weird if you had someone else tag along to all your meetings to film or record them so that you could review your meetings with a view to improve your skills. Now, you can easily record your sales or deal making calls so you can review them, compare them to best and leading practices and enhance your performance.
– Forget to record your calls and review them – both the wins and the losses.
– Don’t forget to tell your counterpart that you are recording the call. Always inform your counterpart that you will be recording the call for quality control and product improvement purposes.
– Review your calls regularly and update your approach and even create scripts for the repetitive parts of your presentations and discussions.
– Use a checklist to prepare for each deal making video call regardless of whether it is a sales call, vendor call, recruitment call or any other high impact business related call. Your check list should cover basic things like what is your agenda, your desired outcome for the meeting, the questions that you would like to ask about your counterpart’s current situation and their future desired situation, expected objections etc.
2. Proactively manage the ‘climate’
The atmosphere or ‘climate’ within which you negotiate is one of the biggest contributors to deal success and one of the factors over which you have the most influence.
– Have any light behind you.
– Have poor sound.
– Have poor lighting.
– Call from a noisy environment.
– Forget to test your video and audio connection before each call.
Your message must be communicated clearly, not be limited by the means of transmission in any way. You will be the most convincing if you are suitably dressed and not wearing a headset for the call. Present yourself as someone who has taken the care to present themselves in the most compelling way possible – the way you do one thing is the way you do everything, and this is clearly communicated to your counterpart by the way that you choose to project your image on screen.
– Set your camera up at eye level.
– Have your background communicate something about you or your value proposition. You could use a green screen with themes and visual anchors, then your counterpart(s) have no choice but to look at the picture on their screen – so don’t waste the very valuable screen real estate! If you decide not to use a green screen, you could also choose to communicate something about your personal interests (books, pictures, trophies, sports props etc.) to reveal more about yourself and create deeper connections.
3. Consistently apply what works (best practices)
– Wing it and hand the initiative to your counterpart because you have not invested time to prepare.
– Forget to have a clear agenda, tell a story rather than argue the evidence and seed the conversation with anchors, social proof and other principles of persuasive communication.
– Get sucked into reciprocating impolite, rude and disrespectful approaches by your counterpart(s).
– Use the same amount of time to prepare for each call as you expect to be in the call (i.e. 1 hour preparation for a 1 hour call).
– Use scripts/sticky notes/prompts to remain on message, ask the right questions, plant the right seeds and overcome objections.
While most people have simply moved to video based communications to substitute face-to-face communications, this is a great moment for you to claim the competitive advantage by not simply looking at video calls as a poor cousin to in person meetings, but rather as a gift to bring much more design, analysis and incremental improvement to your deal making approach.
Jan Potgieter is the Founder and Managing Director of Imperium Negotiations. He has delivered business negotiation training and consultancy assignments to Fortune 500 corporations for over 18 years.