Over a drink recently, an ex-national press colleague was bemoaning the tendency of his current staff to negotiate by email. My instant reaction was to be similarly dismayed that a process requiring nuance should be reduced to a few lines of 11point Calibri.
There certainly are times when part of a negotiation can be conducted, or continued by email. Maybe when delivering a counter offer authorised by a manager (a useful technique for giving weight to a concession)? This may run along the lines of, “Further to our meeting of date/ Great to catch up last Wednesday, I’ve spoken to X and we’d be happy to offer a further Y% discount provided you go for the higher volume of Z”. The greatest contribution email can make is to capture both sides’ confirmation of the final agreement, for the unambiguous record.
I believe that the issue is therefore not whether a negotiation should be carried out by email or by direct contact, but which part should be done by which approach. Negotiation training today covers the negotiating sequence as well as the communication sequence. Not only what happens when, but how this is carried out and what are the implications. Negotiation is a company’s best mechanism for gaining incremental profit. Getting it right is one tick in the box for a successful business.