Brooks C. Mendell, Ph.D.

    Author of: Loving Trees is Not Enough:

                      Communication Skills for Natural Resource Professionals

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Book Excerpt

From Chap. 3 on Negotiation...
Telephone negotiations, like telephone interviews, tend to be shorter and may produce additional misunderstandings. Risk comes with speed. Without the benefit of body language and eye contact, both parties have difficulty perceiving inclinations or commitment.

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Number 11, November 2007



Tips for Negotiating by Telephone


The phone rings.  You answer it. “Hi neighbor!  This is Paul Bunyan from Acme Forest Resources and I was calling to finalize our offer to you.”  The firm that offered to buy your timber wants to negotiate and you feel compelled to comply. Do not do this.

In telephone negotiations, callers have the advantage.  They are prepared; you are not.  This is true for everything from job offers to supplier contracts to apartment leases. Politely say that this is not a good time or that you are occupied.  Ask, “When would be a good time for me to call you back?”

The tools we use to negotiate, such as phones or email, affect our behavior during a negotiation.  While face-to-face meetings typically facilitate rapport, negotiating by phone may be preferred if you want to reduce opportunities for being pressured or intimidated. That is part of the reason why negotiating automobile prices with car salesmen by phone, fax and email has become increasingly popular.

Consider the following tips when negotiating by telephone:

1. Be the caller.  This lets you plan and prepare an agenda.  If the other party insists on calling you, or needs to call you for logistical reasons, agree to a specific time.

2. Listen.  Do not play solitaire or eat while participating in a telephone negotiation.  Listen carefully and take notes.  Clarify vague points.  Date your notes and save them.

3. Get it in writing.  Always get final agreements in writing or offer to write up the agreement as you understand it and forward it for their review.  The written document will provide the only proof and recourse that you and the other party understand exactly what was agreed to.

Telephone negotiations tend to be shorter than face-to-face negotiations and may produce additional misunderstandings.  Without the benefit of body language and eye contact, both parties have difficulty perceiving doubt or commitment. And shorter, quicker negotiations can produce final agreements without sufficient time to fully consider them. Risk comes with speed so take the time you need and prepare accordingly.  Telephone calls matter.


The Loving Trees Newsletter.  Copyright © 2007 Brooks C Mendell.  All rights reserved. We welcome sharing this newsletter in whole or in part if properly cited and attributed.