The Importance Of Listening Well When Negotiating On The Phone

When you can't see the other side, your ears become even more important
When you can’t see the other side, your ears become even more important

Image Credit: Michael

These days we all spend so much time on the phone we really don’t give it another thought. However, perhaps we should. For you see, not only are we spending more and more time on the phone, but we have also started to include using the phone in our negotiations. Negotiating on the phone is different from negotiating face-to-face. One of the biggest differences in terms of impact on negotiation styles and negotiating techniques is the role that your ears play in the negotiations…

Why Are The Ears So Important In Phone Negotiations?

One of the sad facts about when people negotiate on the phone is that all too often they don’t do a good job of listening to what is going on. I get that we’re all busy and if you are negotiating on the phone there is no guarantee that you are sitting in a quiet office. Instead there is a very good chance that you’re driving or walking down a street and just don’t have the time to do a good job of listening.

If we knew that the other party was going to be saying something important, then we’d take the time to do a good job of listening to them. However, we really have no idea if what they are saying right now is important until after they are done saying it. By then it’s too late to start paying attention!

This problem just becomes a bigger problem when you realize that that you really have no idea if the person on the other end of your call is taking the time to listen to you. This all comes about because while you are on the phone, you really don’t have any visual cues that tell you that you have the other side’s attention. What you hear becomes that much more important and so you need to learn to do a good job of it and to take the notes that you’ll need in order to remember what is important.

How Can You Get An Advantage By Using Your Ears During A Phone Negotiation?

Although negotiating on the phone may not be the best way to conduct a negotiation, this does not mean that you are at a complete disadvantage. If you can take a step back for a moment and understand the challenges that the other side is going to be facing during the negotiations then you can understand how to use this situation to gain an advantage in the negotiation.

In order to gain an upper hand in any principled negotiation that is being conducted over the phone, all you have to do is remain silent. What is going to happen is that the other party is very quickly going to become concerned. They are going to end up stopping talking about whatever they were discussing and they start asking you if you are still on the line.

If you were negotiating with them face-to-face, a period of silence would not be a big concern. Things like this happen quite often and since they can see you, they understand what is going on. However, since they can’t see you on the phone, when you don’t talk, a total breakdown in communication has occurred. In this situation, the other party is going to fell a need to speak up and fill the void that you have created. This can often provide you with additional information about the other side that you didn’t have before.

What All Of This Means For You

Most of us could hardly imagine going a day without having our mobile phones by our sides or in our ears. We use them so much that things that we used to do only face-to-face, such as negotiating, have now started be done over the phone. What this means for us is that our ability to listen has just become even more important.

In most cases, it has been found that people do not do a good job of listening intently while they are negotiating on a phone. They can’t tell when something important is going to be discussed and nor can the other side of the conversation. The lack of visual cues makes this especially difficult. The other side’s need to hear sounds from you provides you with the ability to use silence to cause them distress and provide you with more negotiating power.

We won’t stop using phones to negotiate anytime soon. What this means is that we’re going to have to take the time to become better listeners when we are negotiating on the phone. Take the time to pay attention and make sure that you use silence to your best advantage. Master these skills and the phone just might become an important tool in your negotiating toolbox!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: When you are being quiet on a negotiating phone call, how long do you think that you should go without saying anything?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Have you ever wondered how a negotiation that takes place on the phone starts? I guess the answer is pretty obvious – someone calls you. However, what a lot of us don’t realize is that when we receive this call, we are the ones in control – not the person who is calling us. You need to have a firm understanding of this fact in order to get the most out of your next phone negotiation.