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What’s the Difference?

As children we were taught to be honest. And we should be. But if you’re like most of us, you’ve also heard, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Through the years, we’ve learned how to finesse our messages so that, our intent isn’t marred by the delivery. This is equally important in our professional lives.

We need to be charmingly honest; to convey a candid message that’s truthful, but not harsh. For example, it may be necessary to tell your prospect that perhaps your product won’t fit his needs. This will surely get his attention without having to say that, what you’re selling is inferior and costlier than your competitor. Learning how to be frank in a positive framework is something that takes practice. Instead of using the typical four-step selling approach, you’ll follow-up with Sandler’s Up-Front Contract.

Your Prospect is Your Peer

In traditional sales models, the salesperson perceives the prospect as someone above him/her. After all, s/he makes the purchasing decisions and controls the money. Sandler’s approach is different. You interact with your prospect as your peer. You’re leading the (sales) dance, but together, you and your prospect determine what the next steps will be.

So, you say, “At the end of this call, you may decide we don’t fit your needs. And that’s okay. But if your answer is yes, we could spend the last few minutes talking about the way to begin a business relationship. Are you comfortable with that?” Charmingly honest, huh? This differs from the canned calls and presentations your prospects expect and immediately sets you apart from the others.

Why Use an Up-Front Contract?

You can think of the Up-Front Contract as an arrangement agreed upon by both parties prior to doing business together. It’s the game plan for the steps you both will take to see if you can actually make a deal, or, it’s the deal before the deal is made.

Try to think of contracts in a broad sense. They’re promises by both parties to do certain things. We all know about typical contracts: for marriage; buying a piece of property; purchasing airline tickets (called the ‘terms of carriage’), etc. Essentially, both parties agree to certain terms they expect to be upheld. Take it a step further. By getting a driver’s license and operating a vehicle on the road, you agree to obey traffic laws; a form of a contract. Whether playing sports or a board game, there are up-front rules to be followed. Those playing agree to the rules and loosely, that’s a contract.

Up-Front Contracts are intended to make it clear to all parties that, they both decide what will happen, in what order, and when. These contracts clarify what the agenda will be as you progress towards a deal. And very importantly, Up-Front Contracts require decisions being made at the end of your conversations. It alleviates last-minute objections that can kill a deal. This way, you are on an equal footing with your prospect; you’re peers, making agreements step-by-step.

What’s Involved?

Just as contracts require give and take, so does the process involved in the Up-Front Contract. Your prospect’s agreement to continue the conversation is part of you both building genuine rapport, bonding, and the beginning of mutual trust and respect. It prevents your prospect from erecting a wall and in its place you both experience a sense of being comfortable with one another.

How do you get to that point? By listening. You propose the next step. Then you stop and really listen to what your prospect says about your proposal. The rapport and bonding you’re trying to create are built upon listening intently.

At some point you’ll have to address your prospect’s question: Why should I change suppliers and buy from you when I’m already happy with what I’ve got? Maybe the answer is that you don’t really meet his/her needs. But unless you’ve really listened, used an Up-Front Contract, and formed rapport and bonded, you may never seal a deal.

Be charmingly up-front. See what happens.


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