Have you ever experienced a time when you thought you had closed a deal with a new or existing client only to find it falling flat, or worse, being given to a business rival? If you have then you’ll know just how frustrating this can be. So how do you stack the odds in your favour to guarantee that much-coveted contract is placed firmly in the bag and stays there?

Preparation is paramount – as soon as the deal is on the table you have to be able to act fast. Consider the following questions to help think through your approach:

  1. What is the lowest price you will go to? What does a good price look like? Know the deal you want to create.
  2. Ask yourself, where are you prepared to compromise? Always leave room to manoeuvre.
  3. What are the non-negotiables?
  4. When do you walk away?

Consider any challenges, fears or uncertainties the client might have and prepare your best response. If you are asked a question you haven’t anticipated take a moment to think; don’t blurt out the first thing that comes into your head. Take all the time you need to ensure you put your best foot forward.

It is important to develop multiple contacts within the client organisation. Everyone involved in the decision-making process needs to be on your radar; you need to be seen as a valuable resource, a problem-solver. When all things are equal, people will buy from people they like; creating and nurturing those relationships is fundamental. Also don’t forget about the people on the periphery – just because they are not in the meeting negotiating the fees doesn’t mean they can’t affect the decision-making process and influence the outcome.

Listen to your client
One of the most common reasons contracts are lost is because sellers fail to respond to clients’ questions. Rather than being hell-bent on getting your point across, give your potential clients what they want – answers.

Sell yourself
Don’t make the mistake of failing to speak effectively about your offer; make sure you have a succinct elevator pitch. The client needs to know the benefits of working with you and how your service or product is going to help that client reach their goals.

Don’t let it get personal
Once you’re clear on the deal you’d like to broker and you know where you’ve got wiggle room, sit down with the other party and talk about the issues. As you negotiate, do not allow the client to dictate the terms; that’s a recipe for a win-lose outcome, with you on the losing end. Whenever you take a position, be sure you can buttress it with appropriate rationale. Be specific about your facts and remain detached and objective to ensure that the negotiation process doesn’t become overheated.

Asking for the work
Asking for the business can be a daunting issue even for the best of sales people, who can find this difficult. However, there comes a point in every negotiation when you have to ask for the work. I have known companies lose contracts simply because they didn’t ask for the business! It’s important to spell it out without sounding desperate; don’t take it for granted that the client will realise that you want the work more than one of your competitors.

Last-minute demands
If last-minute demands crop up, hold fast!  Sometimes they are simply a test to ensure that the negotiated deal is the best possible agreement. The person with the money doesn’t hold all the power; remember this is about creating a business partnership.

Is it that simple? Yes, it is. Invariably, what the client has been testing, albeit inadvertently, has been your honesty, legitimacy, and integrity and you have proved that you have all of these qualities in abundance and that you have both witnessed the birth of a successful business relationship.

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