Reaping Full Benefits of an Unwarranted Concession
Even the best of clients make it necessary for you to give a concession that from your perspective is not truly warranted. Sometimes this is for the sake of the "relationship" and sometimes to maintain the business. As you make the concession, be sure to get full credit and most of all don't create the worst scenario which you make the concession and make the client unhappy at the same time. Of course, you don't always have to "give" the concession, and often you can trade for something important to you. But when you do decide to "give," get as much relationship mileage as possible out of it. This tip is not about trading (get X to give Y or change the price, change the deal). It is about how to maximize a concession from a relationship standpoint after you conclude you have negotiated as far as you can.
There is a way to make a concession and a way not to: To save you from wasting time, money, and good will, let's first look at what not to do. - Never have an edge, show anger, or negativity; always convey concern for the client's needs and your organization's needs.
- Don't let time pass. Set a time parameter to get back to the client with resolution. If you can't make the concession there on the spot (or don't want to as a strategy to show it hurts) say, "I'd like to review this. May I get back to you by Friday on this?" Then tickle the call back on your agenda. If you need more time, call and say you need more time. - Don't make the concession on the spot unless you are fully prepared to. Don't make the concession too quickly. Set the groundwork. If you need time, say, "I know this is important to you. I want to give it consideration ... I want to try to find a way to make you feel satisfied ... May I get back to you?"
- Don't do it begrudgingly. You can show it hurts - say, "It is very hard to do this ..." or "I shouldn't do this ..." but don't show resentment. If you do, the client will get the concession and harbor negative feelings about you and your organization. You can make it clear the limitations in making this something out of the ordinary.
- Don't do it and not get credit. Make sure the client and whoever else in the client's organization is involved know about it. This is a chip you can leverage later. You'll probably need the point of leverage down the road. If, for example, you have to reissue an invoice, don't just leave it in the hands of billing. Include your own cover letter and cc your client.
- Before you agree, be methodical in understanding what the client wants and why. Make sure you ask why the client wants a concession and listen to the answer. Take notes. Ask, "Is there anything else?" before you make a concession. Get specifics. Then, if necessary, say, "May I get back to you ...?"
- Be prepared with your rationale. Something as simple as "Because this is so important to you and I (or we) value the relationship, I (now it is time for I, not we) will do X." Listen for the client's reaction. But be sure to find out -ask if necessary, "How does that sound? How does that satisfy your need?" Be silent and listen. It is foolish to provide a concession that has no impact on the client or leaves them resentful and full of spleen. Make the concession credible. Make sure you have a basis for the concession, even if it is subjective. Position your concession. Give a rationale even if it is "Because it is so important to you." "Because we weren't as clear as we might have been ..."
- Check out what the client has told you with your own team. You may be getting half the story. For example, a client may tell you about X but not mention Y, which would shift the situation completely. Make sure the facts are consistent with internal perceptions. This can save you from making unnecessary concessions.
- Handle the situation in a timely and responsive fashion. This does not usually mean an on-the-spot decision, but set reasonable time frames. Say, "Can I get back to you on Wednesday?" And then think about it and brainstorm in your organization to make a determination. - Check with the client to make sure the client is satisfied before and after the concession. Avoid giving the concession and it having no impact.
- Show the concession hurts by saying, "This is something we don't do." - Advise your internal team in writing so the concession is made correctly and recorded as to when, why, how, and who. Make a notation in the client file and be crystal clear for the next engagement since this may be this particular client's M.O. Keep track of concessions. - Keep using the words WIN-WIN. - Know when to walk.