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Bring your Best Up Front Contract


If you are a student of all things Sandler (I count myself as a life-long student) you no doubt know the classic components of a good Up Front Contract:

  1. Purpose
  2. Time / appreciation
  3. Their agenda
  4. My agenda
  5. Outcome

The clarity this produces is quite amazing. To have agreed what the outcome is going to be right before you start is a game-changer. However, this article isn’t about why you should do Up Front Contracts, that’s assumed as being understood.

The trouble is, even veterans of this technique fall into a serious trap. If you are trying to establish equal business stature, enforcing a structure like this means in effect you are trying to control the meeting. That inevitably means there is an imbalance. If you are dealing with a dominant style of decision maker they might not take too kindly to being pushed like that. Equally a more steady type of character might feel a bit put upon.

So what is the answer? How can you insert the much-needed structure without being pushy about it? Dialogue is the key to “UFC3.0”

This is how it works.

Instead of checking on time and so on you say “As regards to the logistics of this meeting, has anything changed since we set this up?”

Purpose: “I see this meeting as being about… is that what you see?”

My information needs: “I want to ask you about X and Y and Z. Do you see any problems with that?”

Their information needs: “What do you want to know? Right…you know, we might not get onto all of that; we might have decided to cut the meeting short by then if we decide there’s no reason to change anything” [Note that you are flagging up the possibility of a “no” outcome right here, this early. The pressure is being taken off even before we talk about Outcomes.]

Outcomes: “This meeting could end in one of 3 ways. The first is that we have a bad meeting and we just stop. The second is that we have a pretty good meeting but there’s no concrete action to be taken just now so we’ll figure out a way to follow up and continue talking.

Or if it’s a really good meeting, all looks great, what do you see happening?” They respond with something like “Well, I suppose I’d ask for a proposal or a demo” and you respond with something like “Right, or we might just get started with something in the diary”. They have had the opportunity to place what they typically would see as a good outcome and you still get the chance to put your best outcome on the table as an option too; but you only get that right if you have allowed for their best outcomes first.

Then to really make it clear that this is a dialogue, finish off the Up Front Contract with "Is there anything else or shall we get started?" Is this the meeting you both want to have or does it need altering even now? Better to have the meeting that meets both sides' needs than keep ploughing on regardless.

What difference have you now made to the Up Front Contract? This is much more of a conversation. This contract has been made mutually. It is not allowing any one side more power than the other. It's not like anything they will have experienced, so much so, that their body language will change as they realize you are not going to try and jump on them for business. This Up Front Contract is stronger and more enforceable. You are not forcing the meeting structure so it's also going to feel riskier on your side. But nothing you can’t handle!

Try this more developed version of the Up Front Contract and If you are based in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire Berkshire or Kent, let me know what difference you experience!

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer