Eileen Bentley, Head of Client Capability, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board

With no end in sight to the changed worked practices introduced and accelerated by Covid-19 in 2020, it is worth preparing for ongoing virtual customer contacts, meetings and negotiations in 2021.

Selling and negotiation with customers requires considerable preparation and resilience, with arguably, even more of this required when being conducted through a virtual medium.  A recent Harvard Business Review report found that negotiating virtually tends to leave parties with poorer objective results and feeling less warmth and trust toward one another. So, how best to prepare for virtual selling and negotiation in order to avoid these kinds of outcomes?

  1. Assign clear roles to your team – who is chairing, explaining the proposal, fielding questions, summarizing and following up afterwards?
  2. Practice offline methods for chatting with your team – don’t use the chat function within the host platform. However, try to keep side conversations to a minimum so you don’t appear distracted
  3. Negotiate using video where possible – seeing your customers on screen creates a more transparent and familiar experience
  4. Keep the negotiation video meetings shorter than a face to face negotiation – plan for two meetings rather than one lengthy session. It’s harder to maintain engagement and concentration virtually
  5. Try to make a personal connection – allow time for a certain amount of small talk before kicking off the formal business
  6. Clarify the agenda and meeting purpose at the outset – and always send these in advance via email so there are no surprises

Bord Bia’s Key Customer Management guidebook published in June this year outlines negotiation preparation fundamentals for all suppliers, however the negotiation is being conducted. Set your SMART objectives for the negotiation process, use your understanding of the customer to plan questions to them in advance, brainstorm issues they may raise and prepare your response, get aligned internally on your opening and closing negotiation positions, and finally, identify concessions in advance that you will offer the customer in agreement for something.

To find out more about negotiating from strength and preparing for virtual meetings, visit Bord Bia’s Key Customer Management page and view our previous webinars on these subjects or email us at clientcapability@bordbia.ie


How to Negotiate – Virtually, by Hal Movius, Harvard Business Review (June 2020)

Bord Bia Key Customer Management guidebook