Negotiators Know The Power Of A Well Timed Phone Call

Who can say no to an incoming call?
Who can say no to an incoming call?
Image Credit: Moyan Brenn

Let’s face it, just about every phone call that we receive is an interruption. When we are engaged in a negotiation, this can be a real inconvenience. I mean really, who can say “no” to a phone call? As disruptive as this can be, this might also be yet another tool that we can use in order to steer a negotiation in the direction that we want it to go. Could a phone call be both a friend and a foe at the same time?

Why Phone Calls Are Bad

You are a busy person. You have a lot going on a normal day. When you are involved in a negotiation, you really have a lot going on. This is why a telephone call can be such a big thing. You have a plan for what you want to be working on both right now and in the near future. Receiving a phone call can cause disruptions. Not only can it bring what you are currently doing to a halt, but it can also take up time that will start to eat into your plans for what you were planning on doing next.

None of us are ever ready to get a phone call. We might have been told that someone was going to be calling us, but we can never say for sure just exactly when that call is going to come in. When it does arrive, it can be a jarring surprise. The mood that the call catches you in is going to be very important. If it turns out that you are distracted, unprepared, or simply just not in the mood to negotiate right now then this call is going to throw you off of your game.

We need to understand how making a call to you is going to play out for the person who is making the call. They probably realize that the call that they are placing to you is going to interfere with what you are currently working on. This can have an impact on your schedule and this can all end up having an impact on the people that you will be negotiating with. The end result of all of this is that when you get a call from another party, even if you were expecting it, the call puts you at an immediate disadvantage in your current negotiations.

Why Phone Calls Are Good

As bad as a phone call may be to the negotiations that you are currently involved in, they can also be a powerful tool in your negotiation toolbox. Perhaps simply because of the disruptions that phone calls can have on you and your negotiations, you are already aware of the power that a well-timed phone call can have. When you make a phone call to the other side, you are in control.

What this means is that it is going to be up to the party that you are calling to realize that you’ve called them at a time that is not ideal for them. Once they realize this, they are going to have to react. They are going to have to take some form of a defensive action to counter your call.

A great deal of the power of a phone call comes from one simple human characteristic. Most of us don’t like to defer a phone call when it comes in. Although it would be very easy for them to say that this time is not good for their schedule, all too often they don’t say this. In fact, even if your time is very poor for them, they may not admit it and will tell you that this is a good time to have a talk over the phone. If you are able to get someone who is unprepared to talk with you on the phone, they probably won’t hang up on you and you’ll have an advantage over them.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no arguing with the simple fact that a phone call is a powerful tool. However, as negotiators we need to also understand that it can be a very disruptive event. If a phone call comes in at the wrong time, it can throw us off of our game and it may result in us reaching agreements that we didn’t really mean to make.

One of the biggest reasons that a phone call can be so disruptive is simply because we never quite know when it is going to occur. We may be in the middle of a negotiator or some other task when the call arrives. The challenge here is that we may not be prepared or in the mood to conduct a negotiation over the phone when the call comes. If we are the one making the call, we will have the power. Most people won’t hang up if we can connect with them. Once they’ve answered our call, they are at a negotiating disadvantage.

We have to be realistic about this: phones are not going to be going away anytime soon. With the arrival (and popularity) of mobile phones, they have become even more embedded in how we live our lives. As negotiators we need to realize that a single phone call can disrupt our current negotiations. We also have to understand that a phone call can be a powerful weapon that we use to catch the other side off guard. Use this tool carefully!

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

Question For You: If you are not ready when you receive a phone call, what should you say?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – attempting to conduct a negotiation over the phone is really never a good idea. When we are negotiating face-to-face with someone, we are in control of the situation. We have our notes, we have our support staff, and we have the ability to look the other side of the table straight in the eye and determine what they are really thinking. When we move the negotiation to the phone, all of these things go away. Using the phone for a negotiation introduces a lot of traps that you need to be aware of.