So you have the buyer wanting your product and you have made his decision as risk free as possible. You have worked through what needs to happen to close the deal and by now you have a good feeling that the deal is going to happen because your buyer is actively trying to make it happen as well as you. But you still need to cross the line and there is a lot of work left to do. There are too many variables to give exact specifics on precisely what to do to close the deal, but there are common scenarios we can take a look at.
The first scenario that can come up is that the buyer just loves your deal and there is little left to figure out. As I said earlier, put them immediately in your on-boarding process and let the machine take over. It is important here that you communicate clearly with the buyer what is going to happen and ensure both sides stay on point and on time. Your job here is to project manage the process and keep everyone going to launch. By doing so, it becomes very difficult for the buyer to back out once they are in ‘the machine’. Just keep the cogs whirring and the deal should happen.
A second scenario that frequently occurs is the buyer has one last attempt at gaining a concession. This might be price, it might be contract length, it might be an upgrade on your product – nothing is out of bounds. This will happen a lot and there is nothing you can really do to stop it. The buyer wants your product but is under pressure to ‘look good’ in front of her employers and so works to ‘get the best deal possible’, even if they are already getting a great one. Sometimes they just take a punt and see what else they can get. Expect it to happen. You need to decide what you are going to do about it when it does.
Prior to this phase of the deal, make a list of potential last minute negotiations that can occur and decide ahead of time what you are prepared to offer to get the deal. Then when they come up, stick to what you decided you would do. If you decided that you were prepared to offer a 5% price concession if they asked for it, then commit to that and do it. Concede it with dignity and with status. If I make that decision I return a phrase such as ‘OK, if 5% means that much to you, let’s do it, who cares. We are in the business of doing things right and working with people we believe will be valuable to us, not grinding deals to the bone. Let’s get it done.’ Do not draw it out. Remember the buyer is doing her job, so you do yours.
If however you decide that you are not going to accept a particular request for a concession, then do so firmly and clearly. In the earlier example of a request for a 5% reduction in price, if you have decided previously that this is not something you will do, then state this with a firm ‘no, that’s not going to happen’. At this point saying no will not kill the deal. More often than not this is the buyer trying to achieve a last minute win prior to signature. If you are not going to let it happen, say so firmly and the message will be clear. If you are not firm and clear then it might keep coming up. I have seen deals that should close quickly take two additional months because the selling side was not firm in their rebuttal of a last minute negotiation on price. There were offers to seek counsel from senior stakeholders, which dragged in more stakeholders from both sides. That further negotiation opened others and it spiralled out of control. Just say no and commit to it.
The other common scenario is that there are still terms to negotiate. These typically include a closing date, legal contracts, information security processes and financial safeguards. The bigger the deal, the more likely it is you will have to work through all of this. Again your role here becomes that of a project manager. You need to ensure all stakeholders on both sides are keeping to their commitments. Put each work-stream into your company process and stay on top of things. If you make a commitment ensure you keep to it. If you do not, then people on both sides start to get frustrated. If they get frustrated then they start to get petty. When people get petty the deal falls apart. You might not be responsible for the negotiation on information security, but you are responsible for ensuring it happens in a timely fashion so that you minimise any frustration that may occur.
The final common scenario you will see is one where the buyer just keeps asking for one more ‘thing’. “Just give us this one more thing and we’ll sign” you might hear, only for them to ask for something else after you have delivered it. This is a difficult situation to be in, particularly if you can deliver what they are asking for. The clearer and firmer you have been thus far, the less likely this is to happen but it still can. If it is, then deal with it by insisting on something in return for everything you deliver. “You want me to provide you with one more report on our safety record before you sign? OK, I can do that Mr Buyer. But in return, I’d like you to introduce me to the operational team lead responsible for integration so we can launch that workstream.” If you insist on something in return every time, you will soon either stop the loop of requests or find out the buyer is not as serious as you thought (this usually becomes apparent when you start taking up his and his team’s time).
More than likely, in high stakes high value deals, you will encounter all of these in the final phase of the deal. Just work through them clearly and be committed in your responses. If you want the buyer committed to the deal, you need to be committed too.
Check out our Advantage Plans for quick reference guides on the sales process, or refer back to some of our blog posts: Setting Up A Selling Framework; Understanding The Buyer; Selecting The Buyers; Outreach; Enticing The Buyer; Delivering Your Pitch; Reducing Risk For The Buyer. Alternatively, contact us and we'll figure it out together.