Step 2 – Gain Agreement on Next Steps – Negotiating to a win/win in B2B Sales

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

This month’s article is about gaining agreement on what the next steps would be after an initial conversation has occurred. 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!).

In last month’s article we discussed negotiating for the first 10 to 15 minutes with a ‘buyer’ (anyone inside an organization that may want to evaluate your products and services). After that first initial conversation is held you and the buyer will need to decide and potentially negotiate what the next step(s) would be following this brief discussion.

During this 10 to 15 minute conversation it is critical that your ‘message(s)’ and conversation with the potential prospect be compelling for the buyer to continue to be curious and want to learn more about you and your company.

These compelling messages should be based on HOW your products and services can help this particular buyer achieve business needs they are responsible for in their company. We have seen buyers become interested in HOW products/services help others in their company, but, we recommend focusing first on the specific needs of this buyer. So we’ll assume that you have previously ‘crafted’ conversational material designed to appeal to the specific buyer (if you want more information on HOW to craft these messages, please contact us for further information).

At the end of this conversation you are now moving from step 1 in figure 1 below to step 2 in negotiating with this potential prospect (See Figure 1). The strategy and tactic(s) at this step are to conclude with the buyer whether there should be a further conversation(s) regarding their need(s) and potential new capabilities to help improve their business situation.

It is important that you have a roadmap in your mind about what the next steps should be as you move with a buyer from the beginning of a buy/sell cycle towards a successful conclusion to the buy/sell cycle. Our recommendation for a next step after the initial conversation (step 1 in figure 1), if YOU decide to continue, is to negotiate (step 2 in figure 1) an additional period of time (45 minutes to 1 hour) to get into more detail (a DISCOVERY meeting) about what this buyer is experiencing in their day to day operations.

You also need to decide if this next meeting should be by telephone or in person. If your physical location to the prospect requires expensive travel you may want to have additional conversation(s) prior to committing to travel to this persons office.

A question you might ask is “HOW do I decide if I want to continue a buy/sell cycle with this person after this initial conversation?”. Great question! Here are some quick guidelines to help you answer this question:

  1. This company is in your ‘sweet spot’ based on other clients your company has successfully sold to (size, industry, geographic area, number of employees).
  2. The buyer has indicated interest around the need(s) you mentioned. The needs you mentioned are similar to what other successful clients your company does business with have had. Your products/services meet these needs.
  3. You have ‘listened’ to this buyer and your experience tells you this person ‘appears’ to be genuinely engaged in discussing this area with you. Even if you aren’t entirely sure, why not spend another hour developing a rapport/relationship with this person?

OK! You’ve decided to continue with this potential prospect. Here are some suggested approaches to concluding this call and gaining agreement on the next step of spending an additional amount of time (you decide on what to ask/negotiate for) with this person.

  1. “We’ve reached the end of the time we agreed would be taken for this conversation. Based on what we’ve discussed so far, it is possible my products/services may be able to help your organization. I would like an opportunity to spend another 45 minutes to 1 hour with you to explore this in more detail. I call this a ‘discovery’ meeting. It is intended to gain further information which will help you and I decide if there are good reasons to continue with our conversation(s). Would you be willing to spend that additional time with me?”
  2. “Thank you very much for spending this time with me. Based on our conversation thus far, I am very interested in exploring with you in more detail what you are experiencing today and whether our products/services may be of benefit to you. I think it is too early to tell you that we can help for sure, but, if you have another 45 minutes to 1 hour to talk with me I’m confident I can provide you with enough information that you will be in a position to decide if we should continue to talk about your needs. Is that fair?”
  3. “Mr./Ms. XXX we have reached the end of the time you agreed to talk here initially. I’m not sure if we can help you or your organization at this point without further information. I’m willing to spend additional time with you if you feel there is some value in continuing to explore in a bit more detail how you are meeting the needs we have discussed so far. I feel pretty confident with this additional time you will be in a position to decide if our continued conversations will be worthwhile for you. Are you willing to spend that additional time?”

There are other variations of the three approaches mentioned above . All three of them are quid pro quo’s or “I’ll do something for you if you will do something for me!”.

If this person indicates a willingness to continue to a next step, then we recommend documenting what was discussed in a letter with an agreed upon time to meet again. This letter should not be a self serving document, but, a recap of any need(s) this person agreed they had and a recap of any initial substance you discussed (such as how your company has helped someone with the same need(s)).

If this person is hesitant to continue then there may be a need for further explanation. Here are some additional suggestions:

  1. “I understand you may be hesitant to continue. Let me suggest this. You initially indicated your interest in understanding how we have helped others in this area. I’m willing to invest another period of time to discuss this area with you in more detail. There is no obligation for you to commit to anything other than another 45 minutes to 1 hour to help us both learn more about whether there is a reason for us to continue to talk. Does that make sense?”
  2. “Yes, I know you are very busy, as am I, but, if you have a need in this area as we have initially discussed, I’m willing to provide more information about how you may be able to improve this situation. There is no obligation on your part to commit to anything with me other than potentially learning more about how you can improve your operations. My objective if we do have another conversation is to provide you with enough information that will allow you to finally decide if we should continue to talk.”

The subject for next month is successfully negotiating the next steps in the buyers investigation of your company and how to negotiate when price will be provided to the prospect.

Give us call if you want to discuss this article or negotiating. There is no obligation to you other than being willing to spend a few minutes of your time. Our commitment to you is to provide a consultative point of view.