What negotiation tips can I use to secure a blue-chip client?

After months of trying, we have finally got around the table with a big blue-chip client, with a view to securing a contract that could grow our business massively. However, the experience of both myself and my management team with these kind of negotiations is fairly limited and I am concerned about giving away too much. Are there any basic tips I should bear in mind to ensure this doesn’t happen?

A. Rob Lees of Unique Distribution writes:

Your blue-chip client will have done its homework, will know your size, and is prepared to do business with you. A big company knows how important it is to you and therefore expects to receive first-class service and attention to its account. On the downside it may be worried about your ability to deliver and cope with the business. So build on the positives and reassure on the negatives.

Of course it will want a good deal, but will also recognise that if you are not making a profit, then the business is not sustainable. It may well be that you can go in at a very competitive rate with a strategy to grow the margin as time goes on. Don’t focus simply on price, there may well be other more important issues to them.

Careful planning is also crucial to your negotiations. As in any business negotiation, it’s important to get into the mindset of the other party. If you were them, what would you be looking to achieve, what would be your concerns, and what questions would you be asking? Make sure you have all the answers at your fingertips in the meeting.

The purpose of the meeting is to win the business, not to finalise a contract. Don’t get bogged down by discussing the finer points of detail at this meeting. If you are unsure of an issue that crops up, then don’t pretend you have all the answers. There is nothing wrong in saying that you need to go away and find the answer – but be positive and assure them that you don’t see it as being a problem.


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