Ten reasons up-front contracts work
The level of a child's fear about going to a dentist has everything to do with the dentist. In one office the dentist abruptly examines the child, pronounces the presence of a cavity, and yanks a drill into position.
The child is gripped by fear--not knowing what's going to happen or when the pain will begin. A second dentist's waiting room is filled with children's books and toys. After the dentist introduces herself, she offers the parent and child a tour of the office, meanwhile getting to know the child.
When a cavity is found, the dentist explains what the means, and brings out a model of a tooth to illustrate. The dentist reassures the child in going over each step of how she'll fill the cavity.
In the same way, mutual agreements, what I call verbal "up-front contracts," that you can make with buyers at the beginning of the sales process contain a clear understanding of the steps you will take "together." This reduces their resistance and encourages them to listen rather than defend.
Up-front contracts benefit you as well by clarifying expectations for buyer behavior during the meeting. Here's why they work.
1. Up-front contracts give both you and the buyer the opportunity to ask questions.
"Pat, can we agree to some ground rules for our meeting? I'm going to need to ask some questions about your business, and I want you to be able to ask me anything you'd like about my what I offer. Is that okay?"
2. They give both you and they buyer the right to say no if there isn't a fit.
"As we ask and answer each other's questions, we may decide there isn't a fit between what you need and what I offer. If we reach that point, can you just tell me no?
3. They enable the buyer to say yes if there is a fit.
"On the other hand, if you see that my service makes sense to you, we can decide that at that time. Is that okay?
4. They provide an end result to your sales call.
"If we decide to move forward, before we finish today, can we discuss what the next steps might be? Does that make sense?"
5. Up-front contracts allow for enough time.
"How much time have you set aside for this meeting? Your time and mine are valuable, and I want to make sure we make the best use of it."
6. They make sure there are no interruptions.
"Pat, will we be able to meet today uninterrupted?"
7. They establish an agenda for the meeting.
"Pat, what are some of the things you would like to accomplish today?" Can you share those with me?"
8. Up-front contracts give you the opportunity to manage your biggest concerns up front.
Use this step only for genuine fears or concerns you have. For purpose of illustration, maybe you fear hearing "think-it-over's" when you know 90% of the time it's a no. Deal with that "upfront."
9. They enable you to be "invited" in to a meeting set up by a telephone call.
Have you ever arranged a meeting on the telephone, but were caught off guard by the buyer's defensiveness or antagonism when you met? Buyers will say one thing over the telephone and another thing when they get you face-to-face. You enable that to happen when you fail to use appropriate ideas from this list to establish an up-front contract during your telephone call.
10. They help you control the proposal process.
Here are four up-front contracts to see when you do a proposal:
• The Rough Draft. Ask to do a rough draft for the buyer's review based on what you know now, with a commitment to sit down with the buyer to make revisions before you submit the final proposal.
• The Last Look. If you're in a competitive situation, you want to be the last person in front of the buyer. Try to get a "last look" promise.
• The Confidentiality Commitment. How many times have you lost a bid only to learn that the winning proposal had incorporated some of your ideas? Submit proposals with a stated agreement ( up-front contract), from the buyer that none of the information in your proposal will be revealed to any of your competitors.
• The Price Promise. When you suspect you won't be the low bidder on a proposal, say this: "Pat, just so you understand, we're never the low bidder. In putting this proposal together for you, I'm assuming you're looking for the highest value and not the lowest price. Am I right on that, or will you be forced to choose the least expensive supplier regardless of quality?"
Up Front "verbal" contracts provide both parties one major benefit, what I call "no mutual mystification "on either side of the table. Salespeople have rights (another rule of mine), and we have a right to ask for certain agendas to be followed, as do your buyer. This is why before every baseball game umpires and managers meet at home plate to discuss the "game rules."
Be willing to meet at home plate with your prospects and discuss "up-front" the game rules. I assure you it will create less "mystification."