By Jeanette Nyden, J.D.
We have a love hate relationship with email. We love instantaneously sharing information with a lot of people. But, we also get spammed or deluged with irrelevant “reply all” responses.
We have the same love hate relationship with using email to negotiate deals. Sometimes we love how efficient email is. But, studies show, we lose more than 50% of our deals when we negotiate exclusively using email. Can you afford to lose your deal through email? Email negotiations are here to stay. We cannot go back in time, but we can improve our skills by applying five tips immediately.
- Email Has Limited Value to the Negotiator. Recognize that email messages are easily misunderstood and can create a cascading effect of communication problems with buyers. More than 90% of human communication is non-verbal, meaning tone of voice and facial expressions. All of that non-verbal communication is missing in an email. Therefore, use the phone or face-to-face meetings for all difficult conversations.
- Carefully Select Subject Lines. Subject lines are your first impression. They also help us keep track of long email strings. Use subject lines wisely. For example, instead of “Quote” use “Quote for 2011 ABC Part Including Warranty and Service Options.” Not only does this make a great first impression, it conveys important information to the buyer. Finally, don’t be afraid to change the subject lines to fit the body of your email. If you started with “3 points of consideration” and have only one point left, change the subject line to “Last point for consideration.”
- Structure Your Email for Impact. Long, rambling emails will confuse the buyer. Time is at a premium with buyers. Clearly structure your emails to make it easy for the buyer to follow the back and forth negotiation process. For example, be sure to break topics up into bite sized pieces. Then talk about only one topic per paragraph. You may even want to number your paragraphs. In the example above, if you have “3 points for consideration” number the paragraphs so you can keep track of the agreements on each point.
- Learn to Engage the Buyer in a Back-and-Forth Conversation. Negotiation is all about the conversation. It requires a lot of back-and-forth conversations to get to the final deal. Ask the buyer questions before dumping data or throwing out a proposal. People are notorious for sending back one sentence responses. That type of response could kill your deal. Add a question or two with your response. For example, if the buyer wants to know the 2011 pricing, tell her the pricing and ask a question, such as “What are your customers telling you about this year’s industry trends?” Get a conversation started that could help you learn about what the buyer thinks is important.
- Make Effective Tradeoffs. A tradeoff is a mutual exchange of value. Times are tough; margins are tight and buyers want more from you. To balance their demands with sound business judgment, make a tradeoff. Before you can make a tradeoff though, you have to know what you are willing to offer the customer and what you need from the customer in return to make it a mutual exchange. If you don’t know, take a minute to think about it. It could save you a lot of money in price concessions!
Email is here to stay as the preferred business communication tool. Learn to use email effectively by recognizing its limitations. Don’t use email for difficult conversations. You can leverage email for all other conversations by making small, significant changes to what you include in your email message. Choose your subject lines carefully. Don’t be afraid to change the subject line to help you both understand what is currently being discussed. Break long rambling emails into bite sized pieces. People normally skim and scan email, so make it easy to skim your email and get the main talking points. Taking these small steps will help you increase the odds of negotiating a great deal using email.