Step 1 is the Initial Meeting – Negotiating a Win/Win in B2B Sales

As I discussed in the article in August 2011, “Negotiating to a win/win in B2B”, I will be providing some ‘HOW TO’ thoughts for the nine steps mentioned in that article.

This month’s article is about negotiating the first ‘substantive’ telephone or in person meeting with a curious or interested buyer. The first of 9 steps in our ABC’s, always be closing, for the next tep.


Remember, in all of these steps we’ll be discussing, use the concepts of ‘quid pro quo’ and ABC (Always be closing – for the next step!).

Let’s make an assumption that you have either gained access to this ‘buyer’ by any number of prospecting methods, such as:

  • Cold call you make as a result of ‘focusing’ your outbound prospecting.
  • A follow-up phone call you make due to a trade show contact, or, a bingo card being sent back from an article and you want to follow up on it.
  • A referral call you initiated.

There are other ways this initial contact could be started beyond these, but, for this article let’s keep it reasonably simple.

The overriding strategy that is important here is to have a previously developed approach you would ‘like’ to take in this initial contact. In other words, have a ‘plan’ or ‘roadmap’ for how you want the call to go. Here are some suggested steps.

1. Open the call with a brief ‘scripted’ or well rehearsed ‘message’ designed to gain or re-gain the persons’ curiosity. This initial call opening shouldn’t be any longer than 20-25 seconds. (Research has shown that people will stay focused for a short time without interrupting, but, after this time, they may quickly conclude they are being imposed on, or manipulated). The objective or outcome you should expect from this initial opening is to gain another 10-15 minutes with the person. (Please contact us if you want a sample of a scripted format for the initial phone call)

You may be thinking, “What should the content be in this initial opening”! Great question! Think about it this way: What would the person you are calling be interested in hearing from you? Do they want to be asked “How are you today”? I doubt it! How about this, “Have you got a minute”? Yeah, right! The person immediately thinks, “Yeah sure, I’ve been waiting all day for your call. I’ve got nothing better to do than wait for you.”!

Your initial opening should not use any of the ‘crap’ or stereotypical phone behavior you hear when you answer the phone. Be straightforward, introduce yourself, and the company you are with, and we suggest mentioning key problems or issues you have been helping other clients with that this person/title may resonate with. At the end of the initial opening, ask if they would be interested or curious in hearing about that client (this offer becomes the premise for a negotiation or quid pro quo with this person). If the person is curious and does want to hear more, then you should suggest an approach that offers the quid pro quo or a win/win. Here is an example:

2. (The person has said, “Yes, I would be interested in hearing about how you have helped with this issue”). You could offer this, “Thank you. Telling you about how we helped with this issue or need will take approximately 10-15 minutes. Is this a good time?”.

Why would you ask if this is ok? Put yourself in that person’s shoes for a moment. They are trying to decide very quickly if you are like every other schlepping/self serving sales person they talk to. Are you manipulative, or pushy, or trying to control them? Start from the beginning by being respectful, by asking if they have time now. If they don’t, then re-schedule for another time. If they don’t want to re-schedule then, you could offer something like:

“I do understand you are busy, as am I, but, if you are interested in hearing about how this important issue was resolved, it will take some time. I’m willing to call you at a convenient time that will work for you!” If the buyer does not want to do that, well, you have done the honorable thing and been respectful.

You could then ask if anyone else in the firm may be interested, or you could suggest that you may follow up in the future. Offer something that tries to use the concept of ABC (Always be closing, for the next step). If you don’t ask, then they most likely won’t offer!! In negotiating,  it is important that you understand that walking away after you have used your best skill(s) is OK. Remember the SW rule: “Some will, some won’t, so walk, some waiting!”.

3. If they either say ‘yes’, now is a good time, or you re-schedule the call then here is a quid pro quo you can then offer at the meeting:

“As I mentioned, telling you about this will take from 10 to 15 minutes. What I would like to do is briefly tell you about myself, my company, and about the issue I mentioned and how we have helped at least one company resolve it. I would then like to learn a bit about you and your organization as it relates to this issue. At the end of our conversation, we can make a mutual decision as to whether we should continue to talk any further. Is that fair?”

The four sentences above constitute a “quid pro quo”. I will do something for you if you will do something for me. That is, I’ll give you information that you may want to know about (has some value to the buyer), and then you will give me information that will help us decide if we have a mutual reason to continue to talk. This seems a fair trade, doesn’t it?

You may be asking yourself, “Why did he mention or use the phrase, “Is that fair?”. Good question! Most people believe they are fair in their dealings with others. Since that seems to be a fundamental human condition in western society, why not appeal to their fairness? Using this phrase also recognizes that the buyer is in control, you recognize that, and are appealing for their fairness. The chances are higher that if your initial ‘message’ was meaningful to them, they will be willing to be fair and give you another 10-15 minutes.

4. This same logical negotiated ‘quid pro quo’ could be used over the phone or in person. If in person, an approach that I have used successfully in many first time meetings with executives goes something like this:

“Thank you for setting aside the time to meet with me. As I mentioned in my email for a suggested agenda (this means you sent one! Highly recommended), I’d like to tell you about me, my company and discuss in more detail how we have helped others deal with the issue that first caused you to be willing to meet. At that point, I’d really appreciate you telling me about you and how this issue or need affects you and your organization. I have found in my work with clients that it is helpful if you are willing to answer some directed questions about your company. That will help me help you determine if we have any reason(s) to continue talking. So, once we’ve done that, I suggest that we will be in a position to make a mutual conclusion about whether there is a need for us to continue talking again. Does that approach make sense? What are your thoughts?”

Next month we’ll continue our discussion on negotiating the next steps after the meeting we have discussed in this article. If you have any interest in discussing this article, the use of the strategy we mentioned, feel free to call or email!

Also, if you are interested in hearing about how to tell the stories about you, your company, and how you have helped others, take a moment to investigate StoryLeaders. A new and refreshing way to build immediate trust and rapport with your prospects and clients!

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