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WHY IT’S TIME TO ADAPT TO THE VIRTUAL WORLD: HOW TO MASTER ONLINE NEGOTIATIONS

By Tony Hughes, CEO at Huthwaite International, a leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development

 

Virtual negotiations are now the norm, but whilst we may all be familiar with sealing deals on Skype, how many of us are masters in communicating well online?

Here, Tony Hughes, CEO at Huthwaite International leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development, highlights the top five advantages of negotiating online and how to master this sort after skill.

 

1) Virtual negotiation interaction

Whilst you may feel you are already experienced in negotiation; these skills may not always translate to the online world. It’s important to practice your negotiation skills within a virtual environment now to futureproof your virtual negotiation style. Start by initiating internal negotiations and meetings virtually. Use this as an opportunity to test and assess skills sets, and where there may be breakdowns in communication. Having this valuable experience under your belt will allow you to identify any sticking points you need to overcome as a business, early on.

Something to consider from the offset if you begin virtual negotiations in the immediate future is to avoid a reference to “in the current crisis” and “bearing in mind the unprecedented times we are living through”. Nobody is unaware of the present circumstances. A lazy negotiator may use COVID-19 as cover to justify price positions or proposed contract terms when in reality, it might have no bearing one way or another. A skilled negotiator on the other hand will spot this, and it then morphs into another trap for the unwary: argument dilution. Be mindful of this in your approach.

 

2) Attend from anywhere

The beauty of virtual negotiations is that you can attend them from anywhere. Whether you’re in a different room, city or even country to those you’re negotiating with – it simply doesn’t matter. This makes them much more efficient, reliable and easier to organise and manage. However, this shift in functionality has a direct impact on the negotiation process. With less restrictions around timing and availability, be sure that you are entering the negotiations prepared. Don’t be pressured into negotiations until you are ready – this includes preparing and planning your responses around the objectives and fallbacks the other party have so you have a thorough understanding of what you both want to achieve from the process.

Of course, another real plus to the fact you can attend from home is that all the tools of the negotiator’s trade can be spread out on your desk (or kitchen table) for you to consult and annotate. That’s a liberty you could never take in to a face-to-face meeting. The things you want to see but you don’t want the other party to see are all there for you to use as you wish.

 

3) Reduced travel restrictions

Whilst great for cost saving on travel expenses, resource and availability, there are some drawbacks to virtual meetings. Now that meet ups can be arranged at the drop of a hat, it can leave you exposed to dirty tricks in negotiation. Issues such as calls being planned at the last minute and being sprung on you with little time to prepare, meetings being recorded, and not being able to fully gauge the mood of the room can be a real challenge. Try to counter act these negatives with a transparent, open and honest negotiation stance. If a meeting is being arranged, that provides you with little time to prepare, don’t be afraid of proposing an alternative time that better suits your needs. Likewise, if the room is hard to read, use proven negotiation techniques, such as testing understanding, to ensure you remain on the same page.

 

4) Practice new skills

The most important element of negotiating virtually is clear communication. Communication skills are often overlooked in sales and negotiation training – which can be a costly mistake. The way we deliver our proposals when negotiating virtually can make the difference between a good deal and a bad one. Be sure to avoid common irritators – these being words or phrases which have the potential to irritate through self-praise or condescension, lack any persuasive function and are used to describe a person’s own position or proposal. Examples are words such as: ‘fair’, ‘reasonable’, ‘generous’ etc. and a more recent one ‘due to the current situation’ These words may irritate, and shut down conversations that are essential to your negotiation. Working with an expert negotiator who can guide you to perfecting your virtual negotiating style will allow learning to be embedded throughout your team early on.

 

5) Increased productivity and efficiency

You may find that virtual negotiations are much more productive and efficient compared to face to face ones. Discussions may flow much better and messages can be shared more rapidly via video-conferencing. Because people are in the comfort of their own environment, you may also find that there is a more relaxed tone to conversations, which means that ultimately decisions can be made faster, projects are executed on time and productivity is increased. Also, if all parties are agreeable, the use of annotation and chat tools, and even the little red recording button, are good ways to banish post factum arguments about exactly what was said and agreed.

However, when in this environment, it is important not to be cagouled into a false sense of security. Apply the same level of caution to negotiations as you would ordinarily and utilise the extra time you may have to your advantage. This will ensure you can build rapport with the counter party, whilst maintaining professionalism and securing an advantage through utilising this extra time to conduct more in-depth negotiation preparation so you’re not caught off guard.

If you want to learn more about how Huthwaite International can help your team develop a highly effective virtual negotiation strategy visit: https://www.huthwaiteinternational.com/business-performance-solutions/delivery-options/virtual-learning

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Business

WHY AUTOMATING CAN FUTURE PROOF YOUR BUSINESS

By Ryan Demaray, Managing Director SMB EMEA at SAP Concur

 

Every business has administration duties that can be considered mundane and time consuming  but are a necessary core function of operations. Whether it’s paying suppliers on time or processing expense requests, tasks such as these are necessary for the day-to-day running of a business – however it’s safe to say that these tasks are never ranked as the most engaging or rewarding by your employees.

With a UK recession on the horizon, finance teams are under pressure to not only control costs but provide guidance to the business on where savings can be made. This will only happen if your employees are able to focus on tasks that not just keep a business running but allow them to add further strategic value.

Automating the invoice function is just one step towards giving your finance team back valuable time, not only creating a more efficient and productive workplace, but a positive employee experience that supports growth and stability across your business.

 

The gateway to better efficiency 

From receiving the invoice, inputting data, chasing approvals and moving it down the chain of command, research shows that it can take an average of 17 business days to manually process an invoice. For SMBs with a finance team of approx. eight people, implementing an invoice management solution can save on average 69 hours per week.

By allowing the technology to do the heavy lifting, your finance team can use the time to focus on more strategic elements of the business. This includes providing them a moment to take a step back and holistically look at the spending trends and costs across your business. By doing so, they can often pinpoint spend patterns, but also identify cost reducing opportunities, providing visibility and guidance to help positively impact the bottom line in the short and long-term.

 

Enabling growth and accuracy

As your business grows the number of vendors and suppliers you use often increases in parallel. This growth in external stakeholders can cause challenges and maintaining consistent and timely payment of invoices to suppliers is crucial. The Federation of Small Business estimates that late payments contribute to 50,000 insolvencies annually, costing the UK economy £2.5bn. The UK government recognised this and in 2019 implemented a prompt payment initiative, aimed at helping small suppliers get paid on time by enterprises, with the potentially penalty of not awarding government tenders to those who do not adhere to the prompt payment practice.

In addition to this, inhibiting the lack of cashflow to small business through late or unpaid invoices can have more than just a monetary impact. With poor invoice payment practices, your business reputation is likely to suffer damage, which in turn carries consequences across with future suppliers, as well as customers.

Through invoice automation, you are able to streamline your finance and accounting processing by making sure that payments are processed in time, resulting in avoidance of payment delays, calls from suppliers querying about invoice payment timescales and vital staff time responding to these.

 

Supporting employee engagement

Employees’ experiences affect their work outcomes and carry the benefits of high engagement, increased productivity, and a lower staff turnover. Creating a better employee experience is a challenge faced by many SMBs, but once cracked can provide benefits across your business.

More than just providing a workplace environment and culture, businesses with motivated employees can find recruitment and onboarding costs reducing, with retention rates increasing.

But it’s not only the employee that benefits from a better experience – your customers do as well. With many often on the frontline of customer interaction, it’s difficult to keep customers happy if your staff member is disengaged. By employing tools that allow the automation of mundane and repetitive tasks, employees can focus on aspects of work which they care about most.

 

Future proofing for tomorrow

Digital transformation is here and for SMBs employing an automated invoice solution, is a positive step in becoming a business that is ready for scale and growth. Not only will it help benefit your bottom line, it will create positive staff experiences and efficiencies, that help truly optimise your business – now and in the future.

 

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Business

COULD GRAPH TECHNOLOGY BE A POWERFUL WEAPON AGAINST CORONAVIRUS FRAUD?

Crisis funds and loans put in place to help support businesses during the health emergency have become a prime target for cybercriminals. Neo4j’s Amy Hodler examines how graph technology could be a powerful weapon against these scams

 

Fraudsters will use any opportunity to siphon off funds illicitly, and the pandemic is proving no exception. With coronavirus moving rapidly across the world and locking down countries in its wake, cybercriminals have been quick to launch sophisticated methods to callously exploit the situation.

Cybercriminals have been fast to impersonate trusted organisations such as the World Health Organisation, which has itself seen a five-fold increase in cyberattacks since the start of the crisis.

The pandemic is opening the doors for fraudsters who are taking advantage of changes in normal business processes, controls and working conditions to carry out fraudulent activities. Security controls, for example, are often not as strong as normal due to the speed aid is required and the fact that many people are teleworking.

Amy Hodler

Cybercriminals are using fake or stolen identities to draw down governmental emergency funds. In France, for example, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into massive fraud of the country’s temporary unemployment scheme where fraudsters have drained €1.7 million. It is investigating potential international links to the fraud.

In a statement Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz said that more than 1,740 fraudulent operations were discovered across the country on behalf of 1,069 different businesses asking for wire transfers to over 170 different bank accounts.

 

Can financial services’ practices help?

Aid departments and organisations should look to the mature practices of the financial services industry for a lead in combating fraud. Here firms repeatedly and meticulously check and compare transactional data to look for suspicious behaviour that may indicate an attack.

Like applications for financial aid for the impact of the coronavirus, malevolent actors look to defraud financial institutions using false identities when creating accounts and putting together loan applications. Personal data such as addresses, telephone numbers and emails are cleverly assembled to model assumed and phony identities.

 

A need for a different approach

One of the main reasons traditional approaches fall short is that most fraud detection systems are based on a relational database model where data is stored in predefined tables and columns. With large, unstructured data sets, relational databases swiftly reach their limits; queries turn out to be far too complex and response times lag. Banks and government authorities need the ability to follow a trail from one account to another, viewing a fraud network as a whole complete entity to work out how activities are linked.

Unlike relational databases, graph database technology not only represents individual items of data such as person, account number, home address, but also their relationships with one another such as how they are related. Any number of qualitative or quantitative properties can be assigned, showing complex relationships in an easy to understand way.

One of the best graph algorithms for fighting coronavirus cybercriminals is ‘PageRank’, which finds important nodes (objects) based on their relationships and interprets them using visualisation tools. For fraud detection in banking, the algorithm identifies important or influential customers who are featured in a large number of financial transactions. Nodes with a high PageRank Score can be illustrated using a visualisation tool so that they appear larger in the view and can be immediately picked up.

Another key algorithm is ‘Weakly Connected Components’, which works to reveal the hidden networks that form a fraud ring based on common identity features such as multiple applicants all residing at the same address. These hidden connections provide invaluable information when hunting down fraud.

 

Uncovering fraud rings with incredible accuracy

 Cybercriminals are continually developing attack methods, sharing infrastructures to maximise their opportunities for success. Graph technology has the capacity to help stop advanced fraud scenarios in real time.

Graph databases can help future proof an organisation’s fraud prevention initiatives by enhancing insight based on data relationships and building connected intelligence.

 

The author is Director, Analytics and AI Program at Neo4j, the world’s leading graph database company, and co-author of Graph Algorithms: Practical Examples in Apache Spark & Neo4j, published by O’Reilly Media

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