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The Advantages of Face-to-face Negotiations

September 30, 2019
By Alexis Kereluk, Partner, ConnectSeven Group

In today’s world, most professionals juggle long-distance working relationships. We collaborate with people across time zones, countries and cultures and must sometimes make decisions without ever seeing a product or experiencing a service first hand. Behind a phone screen or keyboard, tone and text can assume unintended connotation, creating silos, misunderstandings, assumptions and even distrust. These risks are heightened when it comes to negotiations and contracts. Understanding priorities and limits can be difficult without face-to-face connection, eye contact and body language. Luckily, in-person interactions break down barriers of misinterpretation and help grow the bonds needed for successful and beneficial collaborations. Face-to-face also generates revenue, leads to greater business productivity and builds relationships faster than virtual contact.

Reflect on the last time you tried to negotiate with a potential business partner or supplier over email or the phone. What sort of hurdles did you need to overcome? Did you experience back and forth messages, misconstrued tone and wording dilemmas? Have you ever chosen not to work with someone because you didn’t like their response, thought they were unwilling to compromise or mistook their curt response for rudeness?

Not too long ago, I tried to negotiate with a supplier over the phone and found myself irritated with what seemed like road blocks at every turn. Every delayed response or denied request made me increasingly frustrated until I decided to end the conversation and look elsewhere. Coincidentally, not long after, I found myself meeting this supplier in-person at an industry trade show. What I previously deemed as rude and inflexible went away as I left with a clearer picture of their offering. In the end, I signed a contract with the supplier. The lack of in-person interaction had almost prevented me from forming a long term, strong and mutually beneficial partnership.

There is a lesson to be learned: when we apply face-to-face to negotiations, we build the foundations for solid working relationships, strip away unnecessary judgements and assumptions and build common ground in ways that digital negotiations can only offer superficially. In-person meetings and events allow us to negotiate effectively on a global scale – facilitating opportunities for people to reach a mutually beneficial partnership based in trust.