This post is about THE basic stuff in business: how to get the contract, and how to make it be a good deal.
Lately, I’ve participated in 2 great talks for women entrepreneurs from PWI and PWN Munich. One was about about discussing money and remunerations and the other about sales. The key basic principles both speakers mentioned are that you have to gain the trust of your customer before entering in the deal negotiation, and that you have to involve the customer in the construction of the deal. Become his partner, not his servant.
Here are my gained insights on the process:
- Open up the conversation simple but get to have your customer curious by what you can provide. This can be done with a case study, a blunt (but realistic 😉 statement like “my previous customer gained a 50% ROI” or “solved his problem in x months”, something that will put him in an attentive mode.
Once there, he will want to hear more. So now, you have gained the right to ask questions. He’ll accept to give information in order to go further and hear your solution.
- That’s your opportunity to ask questions to learn about his problem and adapt the proposal to his needs. This part of asking questions is crucial, use it for contextual questionning: the more insight you have on the situation of the customer the better you’ll be to evaluate the work involved.In the first questions you will be learning about the customers’ situation, ask factual and context questions. But remember that you are entitled to just a few questions before he gets bored: in this phase he’s not learning anything. So at some point, you move to next phase, where you have to challenge his description of the situation using your previous experience, and give away some insight of the ‘solution’ you could provide, but don’t go into much detail.
- It’s during this second ‘challenging’ questioning phase that you are gaining his trust. Because you are proving that you understand his situation, that you had previous experiences with the same challenges. You are rising questions that prove that you know what issues are in stake, making him think about them, giving him insight he may not have on the challenges ahead.Be ‘Columbus’ guiding the customer to see the solution. You are also gaining insight on the level of understanding of your customer on the problematic at hand. And you’re setting the value you are bringing to the table with your proposal by the same way: the less he knows, the more you are bringing to the table.Here are some examples of great contextual questions:
– about the stakeholders: “Who else is involved in the decision process? ”
– about their previous experiences, good and bad: the work will be harder if there is a reluctant stakeholder in the game, or you may add value with your experience if they had a bad previous experience already.
– about time constraints: “Why is it important to solve this issue NOW?” A question like “What would happen in a year if we don’t do this?” makes them realize the value of your proposal.
– remind him of his PAIN: “What could happen if you don’t do ..? It’s better than you saying: “If you don’t do .. then …”
By the end, you should have learned about the context of your work, the available or expected budget, you may have learned about your competitors (if any) and about the decision making process.
Think of this process as Diagnose before you prescribe.
- Co-create the solution with the customer. Don’t push the sale, make the customer wanting the purchase. Come up with him with different options, like 3 proposals with different levels of scope and price, so he can choose the budget (and content) he’s willing to sign. The great advantage to co-create the proposal, is that you don’t have to convince him of the proposal, he did it with you. You have his ‘buy in’ from the beginning.
Let the customer be the HERO that comes to ask you for the solution. Better than saying “The benefits of my solution are…” is when the customer says “Your solution could help us with …”
- Negotiate money issues at the end, when he’s convinced of the value added of the deal.
- To end the conversation: “How would you like to proceed?” opens the line to “I could send you a letter of understanding”: that’s the HAPPY ENDing you are looking for!
Who will say that first sentence? With a big SILENCE you could make him ask for it 😉
Great HAPPY ENDing to all your deals!!!