Negotiating over the phone

Part two in our February negotiation series.

We opened last week’s blog by saying “negotiation is why you’re hired”. We wanted it to sink in again.

If you’re not an expert negotiator, be it face-to-face, over email or, as we’ll discuss today, over the phone, you’re never going to achieve the best results both for yourself, or for your clients.

It is the one skill above all else that will have more of an impact on your future than any other. It’s why we try and talk about it as often as we can.

It’s not a battle. It’s not a game. It’s a process. Always keep that at the front of your mind.

If you read last week’s blog, you’ll know negotiating in writing is all about moving the conversation offline. The most common next step is taking things to the phone. So that’s where we’re focusing this week.

Step one, know what you want to say. Run through it in your head, practice your openers out loud as often as you can, it makes all the difference. The more confident your opening, the better the conversation will go. Your confidence gives the other party theirs. They will feed off your energy.

Step two, actually pick up the phone.

People are most comfortable talking on the phone because no one can see them. It makes hiding the truth in their reactions easier than in person.

Because no one can see who’s on the other end of the line, tone of voice reigns supreme in phone negotiations. Yours and theirs.

Here’s a fantastic video explaining the difference tone can make, and gives some pointers on what you can listen out for next time you’re on the phone with anyone - negotiating or not.

Truth finding statements are particularly helpful over the phone. Especially if you sense a change in tone. Let’s say you say something that causes the other side to raise their voice a bit, a great way to respond is: “It seems like I’ve upset you”.  

They’ll either respond confirming you have (but now you’ve shown empathy) or you’ll learn you haven’t. Either way, you end up more informed than before and you’ve achieved your objective of moving the negotiations forward.

Remember, like we said above, negotiation is a process. You always want to move it forward. During these conversations, you’re going to have moments where you’re not going to like the reaction you get from the other party, and they’ll feel the same about you from time to time. But by being the expert negotiator you are, and making these clarifying statements, you’ll always be better informed because of it and be in the best position to move talks forward.

Another great statement to show empathy, particularly useful over the phone when the other party can’t see you paying attention, is to say “it sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this”. This lowers the shields and shows you cared enough to listen.

It’s an easy way to get to the important parts of the conversation quickly.

Bringing it all together

Whenever you make a phone call, people remember these two things: 

  1. How you started the call
  2. Whether you actually listened.

By letting those two points guide your communication and coupling them with specific negotiation tools, you can become a more persuasive negotiator in any scenario.

Your tone matters over the phone more than anything else.

Learn how to master your tone to get your message across the right way, and your clients will feel far more comfortable and confident negotiating with you.