Q&A: Upfront Contracts

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A contact of mine – Marco San Pedro recently asked a question about Upfront Contracts.

“What is your take on up-front contracts when engaging a client? Can you share some of your thoughts when making an up-front contract with a client?

Thanks,

Marco”

What’s an Upfront Contract? It’s a very simply request that a seller asks a buyer when attempting to start a conversation. Something like…

“If you have a minute to speak with me, I’d like to understand a bit about your company and I’ll be happy to tell you about mine. From there we can determine if there is anything for us to discuss… “

An Upfront Contract is basically asking permission to hold a sales discussion – but it is important to position this as a contract. In this way, both parties (buyer and seller) may decide that it is not in their best interest in continuing a discussion based on what they have heard so far. This is an important dynamic, as it lays the opportunity to say “no” on the table – for either party to decide.

It’s an early stage request that attempts to position the sale as a collaborative effort. There are few other reasons why an Upfront Contract is a good idea:

  • Respect – The seller is being clear that they are not audacious enough to assume that the buyer cares about or is willing to endure a pitch.
  • Trust – The seller is the first one to offer the possibility of saying “no”, and may even be the one to say it.
  • Truth – This is a sales discussion, and if the prospect is not interested in doing that, they need not offer a traditional block of “send me some information” or “we’re happy with our current vendor”.

Incorporating an Upfront Contract into your first 30 seconds of discussion is a good idea. Using my language or words may seem bulky or inauthentic, so use your own words based on the idea of being straightforward and asking for permission to talk. Put the opportunity to say “no” on the table first.

If the prospect agrees to the contract – you are on your way. If they do not agree:

  1. Ask if there is a better time to talk and determine mutual interest, and if not…
  2. Thank them and move on

Your job is not to convince them, but find someone who is interested to talk.

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