Social Media as a Negotiating Tool
By Mark Hunter
Social media has blown on to the scene the last couple of years with the popular websites of Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and many others. Nobody can tell for sure what social media will look like five years from now, but what everyone can agree upon is that the concept of using the internet to socially communicate is not going away.
For salespeople, an important question is, "Can social media help in negotiating?"
My answer is, "Yes, it can." I'm not saying you should directly negotiate with another person by way of a social media (although I suppose there might be exceptions where this is possible). What I am saying is that social media is a perfect tool that someone can use to help frame a situation or build their on-line reputation before the negotiations even begin.
Negotiations are won or lost in two critical areas. The first is the period of time leading up to the start of the negotiations, when both parties are preparing to negotiate. The second is at the end, when the two parties are working out the details of the negotiation.
With regard to social media, I am not an advocate of conducting business negotiations in public. The reason I feel this way is because it is important throughout the negotiation process to maintain respect and integrity for everyone involved. This can be very hard to ensure if stuff is being thrown around for others to read and see. This is the reason I say the best use of social media in negotiations is before the negotiations even begin.
Using social media before negotiations begin allows you to establish the context of who you are and what your expected outcome might be. Best example of this is Donald Trump. He uses social media tools and the media in general to let everyone know who and what he is.
Trump's goal is to make his brand known, and his brand really is himself. He wants his brand to appear favorable. He does this by coming across as a shrewd businessperson, and he uses social media to further this persona. On the one hand, this gives him an upper hand in any negotiations. On the other hand it also alerts everyone who might be planning to do business with him that he most likely is going to be very tough.
Conversely, a person who has used social media to cast a tough but fair image is billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The image he has crafted in social media and the media in general is one of a very smart long-term investor known for making quick deals based on how he sees a situation. The result of this image is many people might be far more willing to enter into negotiations with Warren Buffett under the belief they would be treated more fairly than if they were negotiating with Donald Trump.
The examples I use are extremes, but you see the picture. This is why I am a very strong believer that anyone who is planning to do any amount of negotiating with others needs to make sure their internet image is the one they want.
Use social media sites to position you and your company in the manner you want to be seen by others. Be active in how you do this. If you're not active yourself, other people may craft an image of you that is not accurate.
If you are about to enter into negotiations with another party over a business contract or anything else for that matter, the other party likely will "Google" your name or company to see what they can learn about you. (This is a very common practice).
The other party is going to read all they can about you, and what they read may impact how they choose to negotiate with you.
Some people may like to believe that social media does not have a place in the professional business world. Sorry, but that is old-school thinking (or maybe I should say, "That is so 2009 thinking!") Today, search engines capture everything, and people expect to find out everything. When someone can't find something on the web, they become that much more suspicious.
Finally, don't think for a moment the web is going to become any less powerful in the years to come. Just the opposite is true. It's going to become more powerful. The sooner you accept the reality that you need a solid social media strategy, the better. The strategy of what you post, how you position yourself and so forth is up to you. Choose wisely and be consistent.
Always remember that the respect you show to others and the integrity you live by are priceless. If you build your social media strategy around respect and integrity, you'll be well on your way to positioning yourself properly for today and tomorrow.
Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter," For more information, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com