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And then they move the goalposts!


You have a client and all looks great. And then they start trying to move the goalposts. Maybe they’ve decided they want different payment terms or they want to change the scope of the work agreed or delivery times or something that just was not what was negotiated when the deal was signed. What can you do?

The first reaction is often to see how much you can accommodate within the price that was agreed. That might look like sense; why upset a good relationship that will hopefully mean plenty of revenue just for a minor thing that won’t be a problem to deal with? However, this could signal a number of issues.

For example, if you are prepared to do a little more for the same price, that looks like you over-charged and that would alert your client to start looking for a new supplier or at least consider their options when it comes to any renewal. In fact it doesn’t have to be doing more, just doing something slightly different could trigger this reaction: your client sees this different action as being worth more to them and so the feeling is the same on their side as if you had given something away.

That first reaction, just to accommodate, is therefore perhaps not the best solution. It is frustrating that what you thought had been negotiated fully and decisively is now potentially going to be unpicked. But they are asking for more negotiation, so you have to go back to that step.

You might well feel that you just simply want or need to say “no” to their request. However, it might be unwise to be too quick to do so. You could uncover a whole lot more business opportunities by being a bit patient or you could uncover a whole new range of future problems that could either be solved by addressing them now or you might even discover that you need to end the contract early.

Let’s recall the techniques you used in your negotiations. My favorites include the “Vulnerable / Nurturing / Assertive Triangle” and “I’m confused”. Something like “I’m confused, I hope you can help me here. I thought we agreed X and Y. (Vulnerable) I understand you must be under pressure because of Z (Nurturing) but I’m not sure we can make the changes you’re asking for. (Assertive)”

Ask plenty of “What” and “How” questions to get them to solve the problem they have given you. Things like “How can I do that for you without re-negotiating the whole contract?” or “What would you like us to leave out of our current service to you so that we can make that change for you?”

There are a lot more techniques you can use: Reversing, Negative Reversing, Active Listening, SVIC and Labelling.

If you’d like more on Sandler techniques to manage negotiating, either before the contract is signed or after, and you are based in Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex or Kent, contact me to see if I can help.

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer