Negotiating successfully online

Digital communication channels are currently experiencing a boom. Not only informal discussions, but increasingly also decisive negotiations are being conducted online. Although important negotiations are currently still often held in face-to-face meetings, the ongoing digitalization is forcing us to build up negotiating skills in the online world as well. What should be particularly considered in online negotiations and will they become the measure of all things in the future? An interview with Dr. Hubertus Porschen.

Dr. Hubertus Porschen is a digital expert, a popular keynote speaker and lecturer at the Schranner Negotiation Institute. We talked with him about the biggest challenges and opportunities of online negotiations.


What are the sticking points of online negotiations?

In my opinion there are three sticking points:

1. Process before content: Most people underestimate the leadership of the process. They prepare themselves in terms of content, but not strategically. Even an online negotiation must be prepared professionally and the process is crucial. Who says what when? Do I create an agenda in advance and send it? How is my team structured? What is the goal anyway? What tactics do I want to use? These are all questions that need to be answered urgently before online negotiations.

2. Lack of personal contact: online, body language, empathy and their observation play almost no role. This often leads to negotiations being broken off more quickly. In the case of a physical negotiation, instead of breaking off, you might have taken a short break and had a coffee together. The informal exchange of information is therefore more likely to be omitted online.

3. The optimal negotiator: Never let the person who has the best personal relationship with the other side lead the negotiation. The better the relationship, the worse the negotiation results are usually. By the way, this also applies to offline negotiations.

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How do online negotiations differ from conventional ones?

In conventional negotiations a generally valid “set of rules” has been established. This must now be questioned. For example, informal discussions are suddenly no longer held exclusively during meetings, but via social media. How do I react if I am contacted via Facebook? Should I accept the proposed agenda change sent to me via WhatsApp? These are all questions that were not asked five years ago. Now they are part of the procedure and an appropriate reaction to them must be discussed in advance by the team.


Will online negotiations become standard?

From my point of view, they are gaining in importance. Important negotiations are still being conducted in person at the moment. But it is quite clear that people’s needs did not just change during the Corona crisis. Digitalization is a trend that has become indispensable and I believe that in the future we will be negotiating much more in virtual rooms. Already today, online conferences give us the opportunity to talk to the team (or others) together or, if necessary, to have a one-on-one conversation.


Can online negotiations be learned? How do I become a negotiation professional?

Negotiations can be learned both online and offline. From my point of view it is important to build up know-how and skills in a structured way, just like in any other discipline. Here, reading communication classics such as “How to win friends” or “The Schranner Concept” is suitable as a standard work for negotiations. However, theory is only the basis. My tip: Apply the knowledge you have gained in everyday situations and negotiate consciously. How do you want to win big, important business negotiations if you don’t even dare to negotiate your shirt purchase?



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About the author
Noah Buergin is currently studying in the Master's Degree Programme in Business Innovation (MBI) at the University of St.Gallen. He also works as a student assistant at the Executive School of Management Technology and Law at the University of St.Gallen.