Tips for Mastering Remote Negotiations

August 2022

Negotiating with suppliers can be daunting, and with the recent changes in the way we do business, it’s becoming increasingly important for professionals to understand how to negotiate in a remote setting – either over the phone or on a video call. ArcBlue’s Regional Director for New Zealand, Fiona Nissen, gives her tips for mastering remote negotiations.


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I’m Fiona Nissen, Director for ArcBlue New Zealand. For some, the idea of negotiating with a supplier can be daunting. The challenge of monitoring progress towards a mutually acceptable agreement, reading the room to look for signals, considering tactics to use, or or identifying when a tactic is being used on you -all the while while you’re driving towards obtaining the best value for your organisation. It’s very daunting.

So these are important factors to consider throughout a negotiation. I fully appreciate how daunting a remote negotiation may be for some. With the changes in the way that we do business that we’ve seen in the last couple of years, it was inevitable that negotiations conducted remotely were going to happen more often.

Here are my tips on how to get the best from remote negotiations:

First of all, prepare, prepare, prepare. This isn’t just for remote negotiations, this goes for any negotiation. I often talk about the five ‘P’s: ‘pre-planning prevents poor performance’. You know the rules – get your negotiation plan well defined. Look at the areas that you’re willing to move on and define the parameters. Be clear on the areas that you’re determined not to move on, and seat your partner. Understand who you’re negotiating with. Be clear on the roles each person attending the negotiation will play in your own team as well as the other team.

Now, it may sound obvious, but for remote negotiations, you’ll need to ensure your technology is ready. This includes making sure that the firewalls aren’t going to prevent access to the call. If your team are all in the same room, make sure the sound and visuals cover all the team. It doesn’t work when a random voice is heard and no one can see who’s talking, or the sound is so distorted that every third word is missed. I use Post-it notes on the desk to demonstrate the boundary for visibility on screen.

When working as a team online, create a connection on common ground from the start. Build rapport as part of your opening phase in remote negotiations. This will be vital to warm up the relationship. Turn your camera on. No camera off. It’s unsettling for all the parties, and it isn’t setting a good standard for the type of relationship that you’re developing.

Make sure you’ve switched off your notifications and pop-ups on your laptop and phone for the duration of the session.

If needed, consider switching off the self view. As a facilitator of our training, I find it distracting when I notice myself on screen. I use my hands a lot and did I remember to put lipstick on?

Remember the five ‘P’s? I’ll add another one. Practice, especially when you have a negotiation team. Structure your negotiation. Remote negotiations are more taxing, so prepare accordingly. Process is important, but it becomes crucial when you’re working remotely. Set goals and include an indicative timeline. I find that after 2 hours, everyone’s a little brain dead. So plan genuine breaks to go offline during the negotiation.

Finally, limit your internal chat with your own team. This includes chatting across the table, I guarantee someone will have forgotten to mute themselves. Where possible, avoid using the chat room your own or the call chat room. There’s a risk you could inadvertently disclose something. I’ve seen situations where a chat message went into the wrong chat room and it caused angst for all the parties.

Negotiations are just one phase of the long-term relationship between you and your suppliers. If you set the tone and intent early and you’re tolerant to the challenges of remote negotiations, you’ll find them a successful way of building relationships and delivering value for money.

At ArcBlue, we’re really passionate about arming procurement professionals with the skills they need to master the negotiation. If you’d like support with negotiations, please feel free to reach out or check out our next scheduled negotiation online training course.