With conferences, events and meetings in abeyance during the Covid-19 pandemic, sales teams are reporting concerns that they will struggle to find prospects to add to their sales pipelines. There is pressure to make the most of deals that are already in the pipeline in case they lose momentum and prospects defer purchases. Suppliers also want commitment to future revenues. Forecasts are being re-modelled. Consequently, now is not the time to let contracts add friction and slow down deal-making.
Conversely, prudent suppliers do not want to conclude new business on terms that add to their woes or which might prove difficult to implement when business-as-usual is not in the foreseeable future.
With that tension, what does agile contract negotiation look like for suppliers?
- Don’t seek terms that are out of step with market norms. Know what the market norms look like and don’t waste time haggling on terms that are difficult to justify even in a normal market.
- Be realistic about the risk profile of the project: sales of your standard product are not as risky as sales of new products or sales in challenging projects. Don’t be unduly defensive about the former, but don’t abandon caution with the latter.
- After both organisations have swapped their initial thoughts on a contract, move quickly to a conference call where you share screens and work live on the document to get it closed. Having multiple rounds of swapping document mark-ups makes it too easy for people to hide or park issues that must be overcome.
- It’s not a sign of weakness to show willingness to be flexible in the current situation. Collaborative and flexible approaches to doing business are what’s needed now. It’s time for everyone to recognise that.
- Don’t commit to extravagant risks or obligations just because you need the sale. Procurement teams know that now is a time to extract good terms, but behind the procurement team is a buyer who wants to use your product and will be your ally if procurement demands are opportunistic.
Ultimately, you are selling a product, not contract terms. If you have a good product, you don’t need to trump it with irresponsible contract terms.