Negotiating over email is no easy task. You end up spending more time on drafting a response that in person and without any assurance that the other party is completely engaged and encouraged about the negotiation itself. There are a number of tactics you can use to solicit more effective responses from your counterpart. Are you aware of all of these tricks to email negotiations?
Less is more.
Make 1 point per email. It can be counter-productive to make multiple requests or introduce new topics to an already loaded email, especially if you are aiming to get a clear and succinct response from the other party. The beauty in writing an email this way is that it will encourage a similar response. Short and sharp. ALERT: Be extra informed of the recipient to the email as this tactic can be detrimental when negotiating across cultures and personalities that value long email responses. It may also not be appropriate when you want to write a full proposal.
Emails have tone, be mindful of how your emails ‘sound’ to the other party.
While I do recommend you keep emails short, you should try to include comments and perspectives that communicate the right tone. When needing to communicate a refusal, notice the difference in the tone between “I’m afraid that we cannot agree to those conditions” and “Your conditions are impossible for us to agree to.”
Use ‘feeler’ questions to get a sense of where you are sitting with trust and rapport.
In the early stages of a negotiation, discussions are flying and progressing as you experiment the scope of your new relationship. It is in the middle to end stages of the deal-making process where things get a little sensitive and delicate. To keep the momentum moving forward, you need to get a feel for the other party. The best way to do this is to send out feeler questions like “We noticed that the sector is experiencing an increase in the lead time for raw material A, how would you feel to bounce a few ideas around to future proof ourselves from these bumps in the road?” Or “We’re considering moving production into Johannesburg for material X, would you be open to talking about this region as you have extensive experience working there?
Research has indicated that email negotiations are more competitive. According to Kellogg’s Professor Leigh Thompson in her book “The Truth about Negotiation”, email negotiation is up to 8 times more likely to be competitive. Because of the lack of voice inflection, ambiguous information can be interpreted as negative. To prevent issues on critical negotiations, before sending an email read it aloud in the most negative tone. Does it really transmit what you want to say? If there is any doubt, save the mail as a draft and come back to reconsider before sending.