10 Top Tips to Improve Supplier Negotiations via Video Conferencing

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

It was more or less unthinkable that supplier contracts could be successfully negotiated and completed virtually, until Covid-19 meant ripping up the rule book. As face-to face meetings have rapidly given way to video conferencing, we offer some tips on how to run virtual supplier negotiations to improve the chances of a win-win outcome.  

  1. Ensure the video technology will function properly before starting the meeting by allowing sufficient time for testing. The background lighting should be adequate, but not overexposed, as it can otherwise be difficult to see facial details and may add unnecessary barriers to the communication. 
  2. Check and plan to avoid disturbances; unless they are part of your tactic to break up the conversation either spontaneously, or prearranged based on a defined trigger during the discussion.
  3. Before commencing the discussion, agree with all parties whether the session should be recorded to avoid any surprises afterwards.
  4. Begin with a general catch-up and social conversation with the supplier. As with in-person negotiations, do not rush into business but take the time to place them at ease. This also offers the opportunity to test the technology further and slowly break into the discussion. If you have not met the person before, it’s important to take ample time to build rapport.
  5. Use a computer screen that is as large as possible so you can easily see the other person’s body language and reactions to the comments you make.
  6. Share the screen to collaboratively work on documents and make sure you are comfortable with knowing how to do this before you begin. Use a clean copy of the document rather than one you have already marked up, to avoid giving away any information you do not want to share.
  7. Aim to read the other person’s body language as you proceed and remember to convey the appropriate non-verbal messages using your own behaviour.
  8. Establish a separate communication channel (e.g. electronic chat mechanism) with your internal colleagues so you can make confidential comments and observations during the negotiation.
  9. Apply all the normal procurement techniques you would use to establish a satisfactory win-win outcome from the session.
  10. End with some friendly chat. It is important to recognise the value in maintaining a relationship; so if the discussion has been tense, this is an opportunity for both parties to unwind and conclude the video conference on an amicable basis. An abrupt conclusion lessens the relationship-building element of the negotiation session. 
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