“Why should we negotiate face-to-face? Isn’t it more efficient to text, e-mail or even pick up the phone?”
I get asked this a lot. And I often end up recommending a face-to-face meeting. Why? Here’s my Top 5 Reasons to Negotiate Face-to-Face.
1. Easier to get a “yes”
It’s much easier to say “no” by text or e-mail or even the phone than it is in person. If you want a “yes,” meet face-to-face.
Sophisticated sales professionals know that if they can get a face-to-face meeting with a prospect, it’s a big deal. It doesn’t guarantee a “yes,” but it moves you strongly in the right direction.
2. Better at building rapport and relationships
Some can masterfully build rapport and relationships online through texts, e-mail and social media. Doing this is a real art.
More folks, however, excel at relationship and rapport-building in person. For most, it’s just easier to build relationships face-to-face than electronically.
Of course, this may be generational. Kids today are growing up with an intravenous connection to their smart phones. So this might be changing.
But for the business professional now, you can’t duplicate the rapport and relationship-building opportunity of a face-to-face meeting, especially early in a negotiation.
3. More effectively read non-verbal signals
Researchers estimate the human face can project more than 250,000 different expressions.
Non-verbal signals like facial expressions and body language, plus tone, and even elements of sincerity and truthfulness, can only be evaluated in person or, to a lesser degree, by phone.
In a recent New York Times article M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle, author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age,” notes that technology was a significant factor in research finding a “40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.”
Effectively exhibiting empathy and accurately reading the non-verbal signals of others are crucial skills in most negotiations – and don’t really take place except in face-to-face settings.
4. Lessens likelihood of miscommunication
How many of us have jumped to inaccurate conclusions about another’s intent or position based on a text or e-mail? It’s easy to do this.
If we were in a face-to-face meeting and weren’t sure of a person’s meaning, many naturally would ask “what do you mean?”
This immediate interactivity and ability to instantaneously explore a person’s meaning or fundamental interests can be crucial in negotiations. Yet this is often lost or less likely to occur when communicating electronically.
5. Increase efficiency
Finally, e-mail and text inherently seem more efficient than meeting in person. Just write and send, right?
Yet sometimes we go back and forth with e-mails and written offers and counters, sometimes taking weeks to narrow the gaps and resolve the issues.
That same back-and-forth process can often be accelerated and more efficiently conducted in person, which is a major benefit of mediation (an in person negotiation with an independent third party mediator who effectively manages the process).
Now don’t get me wrong – I am a big fan of texting, e-mail and the extraordinary benefits of new technology (check out my column next month on my Top Five Reasons to Negotiate through Technology).
But there’s a time and a place to negotiate through technology, and a time and a place to meet in person.
Latz’s Lesson: Next time you start typing a significant e-mail to your counterpart, consider instead an in-person meeting. You might just grab that next flight out.
Published January 3, 2016 The Arizona Republic