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Negotiating Online in 2020: Strategies to Get Results

In today’s environment, discussing business over a meal is no longer an option. Many might find themselves invited to a Zoom or video meeting for the first time. When in-person negotiations are not an option, taking the time to plan your communication strategy can help you get the best results.

5 Tips for negotiating online in 2020

I’m not a big fan of negotiating online through Zoom or any other video technology. I’m not uncomfortable with the technology. In fact, the technology – as many are realizing during this pandemic – is pretty good. I just personally prefer the social engagement of in-person interactions.  Frankly, it’s more fun.

Of course, our choices right now are limited. It’s either negotiating via video, phone, email or some combination.  We’re thus faced with deciding which communication forum to use? And how should we most effectively engage in that environment?

Here’s my advice.

1. Make a Strategic Decision

Most importantly, make these determinations strategically and plan it. Don’t just pick up the phone or click “Accept with video” and start engaging. Be conscious about this significant decision.

2. Evaluate the Spectrum of Personalization

The ways in which you can engage lie on a spectrum of personalization. On one end of the spectrum – the most personal – you have in person interactions.

On the other end – the least personal – you’re communicating through intermediaries in writing that will take time to get delivered (perhaps a letter through the post office on which you were copied or a legal court filing).

Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Evaluate them.

For instance, it’s easier to say “no” in an environment with very little immediate personal interaction (it’s easier to say “no” on the phone than in person – and much easier to say “no” via email than on the phone, etc.).

Unique advantages and disadvantages also exist for phone negotiations (see my column Special Tactics to Negotiate Effectively By Phone) and to negotiating back-and-forth in writing (see my columns Know How to Proceed When Talks Take a “Write” Turn  and Writing and Anchoring Powerful in Negotiations).

Spectrum of personalization in negotiation

3. Be Consistent Across the Spectrum

UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian in 1967 developed the now famous “7-38-55” rule. His research found that, in communicating about emotions and feelings, the recipient’s conclusions are based 7% on the words and content used, 38% on tone of voice, and 55% from visual cues like body language, facial expressions, etc.

While this applied to communications regarding feelings and attitudes, our negotiation takeaway? Make sure your words, tone and visual signals are aligned – especially if you’re on video or in person.

Studies also show that misalignment here, especially between unconscious facial micro-expressions and words, can lead to credibility and trust problems. (See my column Clues Suggest Person May Be Lying). There’s also evidence that people lie more often by email than face-to-face.

4. Set a Mini-Goal for Each Interaction and a Plan for the Entire Negotiation

Based on the above, decide which method will most likely help you accomplish your goal for each significant negotiation interaction. And make this decision based on factors that include, at the least:

  • the impact on the parties’ relationship,
  • efficiency, and
  • your personal comfort level and style and strengths in each environment.

To start a negotiation, for instance, you might prefer the most personal interaction possible – which today is a video call. Why? Because your negotiation goals include a long-term partnership with your counterpart and video interaction will be best suited to developing rapport and sharing fundamental interests. Plus, you’re very comfortable on video.

In the middle of the negotiation, perhaps make a written offer on the complex legal issues by email but follow up with a phone call so you can efficiently refer to your notes without appearing on video as distracted and unengaged (incongruent signals).

At the end, schedule a video call when only several remaining issues remain (especially if you want a “yes” on them and want to evaluate your counterpart’s visual reactions to your moves).

Keep in mind your long-term goal here, too, and strategically plan these types of interactions.

5. Prepare to Negotiate the Rules of the Road (How to Engage)

Finally, sophisticated negotiators must prepare to negotiate these “rules of the road,” in other words negotiating over how to negotiate. Some are mutually beneficial. But not all.

Latz’s Lesson: How you engage – in person, video, phone, email, letter – can be as impactful as what you negotiate.

P.S. Want to know more about negotiating online during a crisis? Join Keld Jensen and Marty Latz for an online LIVE webinar on May 6th and 19th.

Looking for Negotiation Training or a Keynote? Contact Us

Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He also has two bestselling books Gain the Edge! and The Real Trump Deal: An eye-opening Look at How He Really Negotiates. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

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