Up Front Contracts

As I spoke with the owner of a small engineering firm yesterday, he talked about how surprises keep popping up in many of his meetings with prospects. “I feel as if I’m giving free consulting and getting nowhere closer to a contract,” he said. “I’m not even sure this is a qualified prospect. I feel like so many of my sales calls are just a waste of my time.”

There is no way to always avoid this, but there are processes and techniques that can minimize the constant surprises and facilitate continually progress toward an opportunity to close. The most powerful tool is an upfront contract, a technique I first learned in a Sandler sales training class years ago. An up-front contract should be set before the start of every interaction. Even if it is just a review of your last meeting and a presentation of this meetings agenda.

An up-front contract should consist of five elements:

  1. Purpose of the meeting.
  2. Prospects expectations for the meeting.
  3. Salesperson’s expectation and agenda for the meeting.
  4. Location and duration of meeting.
  5. Expected outcome of the meeting.

This may feel at first like you are trying to over control a meeting – but it is incredibly effective at eliminating unexpected surprises, keeping a meeting on track, and meeting time constraints. It can also be a great trust builder. There is no reason for manipulation – your agenda has been clearly stated. Buyers almost always appreciate the structured interaction and respect the approach. Respect helps build trust.

Make sure the buyer does not feel pressured or any discomfort with how you present this approach, or you will never reach the desired outcome. Practice your approach beforehand. Start by emphasizing how you want to use the prospects time “wisely” and make sure his expectations are met. Then cover your expectations and the intended outcome as a reason for the meeting.

Thank you for an opportunity to work together and collaborate on your problem. We should be able to conclude this meeting in the next 60 minutes. Please ask questions at any time – questions always help clarify discussions. Is there anything not on the agenda you wanted to discuss today?  Thank you.

My intent today is to understand your challenges better and I would also like to understand your strategic objectives. Is this approach ok with you? By the end of the meeting, I hope to understand the following items ………… This will allow us to have a follow-up meeting to present a solid proposal”.

Setting an up-front contract is not designed for the first interaction – but is almost mandatory for any follow-on conversations to assure a steady progression through the pipeline and not being side-tracked by unexpected, previously unexpressed concerns. These belong on the next agenda – when you have time to prepare.

The up-front contract is just a small part of the whole process, but if a client is not willing to set up an up-front contract, then he may not be ready to buy and you can probably find a better place to spend your time.

If your sales team is struggling to make quality connections and close deals, we can help! Contact Bill Kiefaber at 614.353.5563 or bill@marketingworks360.com.

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