YOU CAN”T LOSE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE
After weeks of discussions with assistants, Maria finally succeeded in connecting voice-to-voice with Bill, the CEO of LargeCo.
Mariaâ€™s boss had been pressuring her to get in the door at Billâ€™s company for several months. Sheâ€™d been leaving voicemails and sending email messages for weeks.
â€œI do appreciate your persistence, Maria,â€ Bill said, â€œand youâ€™ve definitely done your research. Iâ€™m about to go into my next meeting, but I took this call to tell you know that I did listen to your messages and I did read your emails. Tell me what you have in mind.â€
What an opportunity! Here was the chance to start a discussion with the CEO of one of the top companies in the industry. Something in the back of Mariaâ€™s head said:Â This could be big. Donâ€™t push too hard â€“ donâ€™t lose this.
Hereâ€™s what happened.
Maria:Â Bill, Iâ€™ll be in your area next Tuesday. Iâ€™d like to drop by and tell you a little bit about how we can help you reduce your production line defect rates.
Bill:Â Sure. I should be around in the afternoon. Come on by.
And with that, Bill hung up.
When Maria showed up on Billâ€™s doorstep the following Tuesday, though, she learned that Bill
had been called away to give a presentation at an industry conference in another city. After that, Bill would be on vacation for three weeks. Could Maria check back in when he returned?
Maria was right back to square one. Her instinct not to â€œpushâ€ Bill, not to â€œloseâ€ anything, was
an expensive one.Â She didnâ€™t have anything to lose yet.
Suppose her conversation had gone in a different direction. Consider this possible dialogue:
Maria:Â Well,Â Bill, based on what youâ€™ve just said, I believe we can help you reduce your production line defect rates. Honestly, though, Iâ€™m not sure right now whether what weâ€™ve done for other companies facing the same kinds of challenges would work as well for you — since I donâ€™t have all the specifics of your situation. But, if itÂ wouldÂ work, would it make sense to find that out?
Bill:Â Well, yes.
Maria:Â I believe so, too. Why donâ€™t you pick a day to invite me over when we can invest an hour with each other and determine whether thereâ€™s a fit. If that make sense, Iâ€™ll be able to determine if what weâ€™ve done for other companies would work in your world. During the meeting, it would be helpful if you could provide me with some of the details about what youâ€™re doing now to reduce defects, and perhaps share some examples of your production lineâ€™s quality problems. Would you be comfortable sharing that information when we get together?
Bill:Â Yes, I can do that.
Maria:Â Okay, I appreciate that. Then, if there is a fit, I can explain why I believe there is and how we would address your situation. Does that make sense to you?
Maria:Â Now, Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll also have some questions for me about how we work, which Iâ€™ll do my best to answer. After which, you can tell me if you even want the kind of help we provide. And, if you donâ€™t, thatâ€™s okay. On the other hand, if you do, weâ€™ll have to talk further about what the next steps are. Perhaps weâ€™d have to schedule another time to do that — but letâ€™s not jump too far ahead. Why donâ€™t we first see if thereâ€™s a fit, and then you can tell me if you want to take the next step? Are you okay with that?
Bill:Â Sure. Can you come in tomorrow around 8:30 a.m.?
In the conversation you just read â€“ the one Maria should have had –Â both sides have agreed to an Up-Front Contract (UFC).This is simply an agreement between you and the prospect (or customer) about what will happen during an upcoming interaction. Itâ€™s comparable to an umpire describing the ground rules of the stadium to a pair of managers, right before a baseball game.Â Everybody understands, and agrees to, the rules of the game thatâ€™s about to be played.
Five components of a well-constructed up-front contract are:
Your most productive sales discussions with prospects are likely to involve multiple up-front contracts. The most important one, however, is the first one. It sets up the whole relationship.Â Youâ€™ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by establishing an up-front contract with your prospect!
Hamish Knox is a Sandler trainer in Calgary, AB.