First, if you have not heard of this tactic, it goes something like this…
When used by a sales person, they may find one key requirement in an RFP or other request, and put a heavy focus on it to eliminate the competition. Then, once others are out of the way, begin working through the details. The buyer doesn’t want to start over, and feels pressured to stay with their selection, while the seller begins to change the story around that one key provision. Here’s what this might look like in reverse…
You’ve made your proposal and the client offers you the business…once accepted, they begin changing the scope on you. The details have been left out of the agreement in this case because you are responding to their request, written by them. In order to get more for their money, they begin pressuring you for more while threatening you with a withdrawal. You’ve already committed this business on your forecast, and they know it. It would be hard to go back and tell your managers that the deal is no longer on, so instead you compromise, allowing them to take advantage of you.
1. Most of these problems result from not writing up the agreement. The deal happens quickly, so you assume everything is okay and go with the handshake. Always email back the details when you talk by phone, and when signing up to do something, be sure to write up an agreement. Use a change control process on all projects – and get them signed off on by someone with authority. Using a project manager makes this much easier, as it allows the sales person to stay out of change management, instead, focusing on the relationship.
2 When there is a question on scope – get on the phone. I recently had someone email me their side of a misunderstanding…in this case they were not pushing for scope creep but I wasn’t sure at first. An email is not the place to negotiate or clarify. On the other hand, it is a great audit trail once you’ve ironed out things verbally. I responded by phone, reviewed what was agreed to, came to a understanding so that everyone was happy, and then responded back with an email thanking my client for the question and restating what we had just agreed to. He in turn forwarded our discussion to his team and everyone was clear…there’s an archived email to reference if the question were to resurface.
© 2011, David Stelzl