How to Win Negotiations Over Zoom

    

As more people are working from home, virtual conferences, meetings, and even negotiations have become a necessity. However, Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms can feel unnatural or even uncomfortable. You’re faced with something that is neither a phone call nor an in-person meeting. 

Here are the three keys to winning a negotiation in a Zoom environment:

  1. Body language tells
  2. Your “team”
  3. Take notes (be seen)
  4. Bonus idea: Stand!

Negotiations over Zoom

Body Language Tells

For You

Nod yes periodically throughout. Nodding “yes” is one of the most encouraging and universally understood body language movements. It will encourage honest and open communication (and body language) from the other side.

All of the other participants won’t just be looking at their screens—but looking specifically at the portion of the screen where the current speaker is—and they don’t feel others looking at them—and so they are likely to be less guarded.  

I intentionally tell bad jokes during our Zoom calls because I know a “bad” joke is more likely to get a strong physical reaction, and I want to see who that’s “off-target” is unguarded.

Off-Target People

“Off-target” is whoever from the other side isn’t speaking at the moment.

The “off-target” folks are likely to be gold mines of body language data. Several years ago, after our team had completed a videoconference call, one of our teammates said to me, Did you see Rick’s face when you asked Erica that question?  I thought he was going to throw up!  

But I hadn’t seen it, because I was focused on Erica.

On-target people—the speakers? 

These people may forget anyway, because they are probably looking at the speaker and not the camera.

Does your negotiation strategy fit their personality? Use this guide to  negotiate successfully with anyone »

Your “Team”

Most team negotiations are conducted with people who are waiting for their own turn to talk about their topic—which means that whenever they do listen in, they tend to be unguarded, especially on video.

Everyone on your team needs to be tuned into this strategic dynamic, both as receivers of information and sources of it.

What do you do when something is picked up by your side? Label it. Generally first ... hone in if they equivocate. 

  • It seems there’s more here?
    • It seems like there’s something here I’m missing? (Introduction of “I” to begin to hone in.)
    • I feel I’m missing something here. (Much more honed in and a stronger inclusion of “I.”)
  • It seems like [name of the person who shifted] has thought of something important.

Take Notes (Be Seen)

You’re (most likely) going to be seated anyway—they will love it! And ... it will give you a chance to think.

Taking notes when someone speaks makes them feel wonderful. They feel like they are truly imparting wisdom, and this tends to make them feel important and bonded to you.

It’s also a hack for focusing and absorbing the information. It gives you the opportunity to slow things down slightly and make sure you can drill in on the points that help you make a better deal, or more importantly, avoid a bad one.

The issue of being the “Favorite” or the “Fool” is still very real in today’s environment.  Please reread this article if you need to refresh this idea in your head.

Bonus Idea: Stand!

One of our Black Swans—Derek Gaunt (an expert negotiation coach and probably our smartest guy)—has gotten himself a laptop stand/rising workstation for his computer.  He likes the energy and increased thinking ability it gives him.  

There are actually a few studies that show that movement often helps your thought processes. This is the reason why taking a walk to think things over has always been a good piece of advice as a decision-making aid.

With your increased energy, the others on the call boost their energy levels as well. I know this firsthand from experiencing it on calls with Derek. For these reasons, I make it a point to stand during selected Zoom calls.  And all the benefits mentioned above have transferred to me.  

You can still find a way to take notes. In this new era of the internet- and video-based business calls, people are incredibly flexible.  

It is overall a great opportunity for everyone to not only up the level of their business effectiveness, but to also have better relationships too!

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Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.