This article has been guest written by Jessica Salazar. Thanks to Jessica for her contribution.
It is no surprise that the COVID-19 outbreak has made many businesses and consumers rethink their daily lives. As people have been forced to deal with social distancing, they have found themselves to rely much more heavily on digital lines of communication, which includes email. An email is still a valuable form of communication, with nearly 2/3 of all marketers relying on it. As consumers learn to deal with living in a time of panic and anxiety, they expect marketers and brands to offer higher levels of guidance and security.
Even before the effects of COVID-19, email negotiation could be a difficult task. However, when other elements such as a global pandemic get mixed in the fray, reaching agreement via email can become inherently challenging. External circumstances can cancel agreements, create contract renegotiation and break solid promises. During these challenging times, decision-makers find themselves trying to negotiate with people who are fueled by their emotions, making communication via digital means rather difficult.
The art of a good negotiation is the ability to make concessions in an area of least importance in the exchange of receiving concessions which are of greater importance. It is essential that both sides of the negotiation understand what is most important to each and that will require trust. Email is perhaps one of the fastest forms of communication. However, with this increase in efficiency we have developed a low-trust environment.
For trust to develop via email communication, all participants must be gathering information, asking relevant questions, making proposals as well as reaching fulfilling agreements that are not self-serving. While dealing with negotiation in a pandemic environment, trust becomes even more critical because people are living in a survival mode. Just the wrong sense of wording can send you in a different direction. This is not a suitable outcome when an agreement is essential and the relationship must continue forward.
With this being said, it is important to understand what a business should and should not do in the hopes of building trust through a low-trust environment, such as email.
● It is important to avoid proposals that will be complex and confusing with a large amount of data being dumped on an individual, in an environment where messages tend to be misunderstood in the first place.
● It is best to use clear and concise language that will include essential bullet points and a summary for easy readability. This will help build trust as it allows the readers’ attention to focus on essential aspects of the agreement, while disregarding elements that are not as important.
● One should try to avoid lean modes of communication that tend to misrepresent tone and intent because email lacks typical rapport-building communication.
● Finance advisor, Shane Perry from Max Funding says, “It is best to follow up the email with a quick phone call or video call that will help to establish verbal and visual clues that may have been missed in the email. This will allow the individual the chance to cover their words with compassion, authenticity and empathy and ensure they are coming across as they desired.”
● Try avoiding instant responses that may be confusing or provoking, email offers a form of social distancing that may tempt individuals to act more impulsive, reactive and offer regretful replies.
● It is best to have a colleague or friend outside of the scope of business the opportunity to read the email before you send. This allows a sense of objectivity from another individual who has no commitment or involvement with the negotiations.
● Never hold onto essential information until the final moments of the negotiation as this can make the other party feel as though there’s a bait and switch since email communication is linear, logical and progressive.
● It is always best to give as much information as early as possible in the negotiation. This allows the other party to prioritise and properly plan as opposed to scrambling due to a failure to communicate.
● Never rely on the ability to persuade as this can come off as manipulation, especially when coming from someone in power because the email is usually one-sided and direct.
● It is best to make a proposal that will focus on the trading of real concessions to reach a mutual agreement. This will help to build the trust that is necessary for negotiations by trying to give people what they are looking for on terms that are acceptable to you.
While this pandemic is one of which we have never seen before, it is still possible to help clients daily. Always take the time to highlight them in your emails. Focus on providing essential information. Now more than ever, clients need brands they can trust.
The next time you find yourself negotiating through the process of email, remember you have the ability to build trust by simply recognising that there is another human being on the other side of the computer and you must act accordingly. By simply remembering that one important element, you can create agreements that will save you time and money and build relationships for the future.
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