Can Sales Negotiation Be Done Via Email and Text?

by drjim on May 26, 2009

Email Is A Powerful Tool, But Is It The Right Tool For Sales Negotiations?

Email Is A Powerful Tool, But Is It The Right Tool For Sales Negotiations?

I might be setting off a bit of a firestorm with this idea, but here in the 21st Century do you think that it is possible to conduct sales negotiations using more smart phones and less human contact?

The Need For Modern Solutions

The #1 attraction of using a smart phone (Blackberry, iPhone, or whatever) in the first place is that it can speed just about anything up. The immediacy of e-communications allows deals to develop quicker and to move at speeds that once were unimaginable. However, when it comes to sales negotiations, things can get a bit trickier.

What we are all just starting to deal with here are the questions that come up surrounding e-mail negotiations. Some of these questions include:

  • Is it possible to conduct sales negotiations completely via email?
  • What impact does this have on what kinds of information can be shared during the sales negotiation?
  • When is human contact called for?

The New Rules

Using email as a central part of any sales negotiation changes a number of things. The first is that anything that you put into an email will live forever and may come back to haunt you. It is a great way to send information to the other side, keep almost perfect records, and make sure that everyone involved is informed on where things stand.

At the same time there are pitfalls that everyone must be aware of. These tend to show up whenever there are conflicts or misunderstands. The problems come about because the one thing that email does not do well is communicate emotions or nuances.

So what are the “new rules” in this world of email supported sales negotiations? Here are a few of them:

  1. Slow Down: do not write and send emails on the fly. Remember, these things live forever. I prefer to write the email one day, save it, re-read it the next day and then send it. I’m always careful to leave the “To:” field blank while I’m composing an email JUST IN CASE the “send” key get pressed too early.
  2. Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires: in order to prevent those cases where misunderstandings start small but keep getting blown out of proportion, don’t use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, multiple !!!!!, or including flip comments (“How about making a real counteroffer?”).
  3. Don’t Forget The Phone: In every sales negotiation, there will probably be a time in which it would be better if you picked up the phone and talked with the other side instead of sending them another email. Realize that this moment exists, look for it, and act when it shows up.

Lessons Learned

The take-away from all of this is that times are changing. Gone are the days that all sales negotiations could take place face to face. Negotiating via email is here to stay and we all need to get used to the new rules of the game.

The experts who have been living with this new way of doing business have one final suggestion for all of us. They recommend that prior to starting the negotiating process, all parties meet in person. This is the key to allowing everyone to understand their body language and how they react to things. In the end, this is critical so that you can understand the true intent behind the words in their emails.

Do you negotiate via email today? Has there ever been a miscommunication caused by email? What caused the problem? How was it resolved? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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