When my wife and I were first married, like a lot of other younger couples, we began furnishing our new home via garage sales. The second time we went out together she fell in love with a large painting that would go perfectly with the couch we just bought. I asked the owner how much and she said, “$40”. I took a deep breath and said, “I can’t give you $40 but I will give you $25”. All of a sudden my wife blurts out, “Babe, the frame is worth more than that”!!! After a few moments of awkward silence and with the owner of the painting smiling, I turned to my wife and said, “We need to talk”.
Everybody that comes in contact with your customers is a part of your negotiating team. Customers have long memories about certain things and very very short memories about other things like all the free stuff we do for them. It’s imperative to communicate to your team on how to handle certain situations with each customer based on the deal you made or the deal you’re proposing.
Example: One of your team members is doing training on how to create BOMs in an ERP system and the client asks, “before you leave could you help John create a custom field on our invoice?” 99.9 percent of the time, your team member, if it’s simple, will just do it and not bill or track the act as added value and Scope Creep on behalf of the customer begins.
Scope creep is nobody's friend. Sometimes a front-line employee may make an innocent request for some function to make their life easier but is in direct conflict with the wishes of their manager. In other cases, scope creep can distract the consultant from other functions which are more critical to project success and result in missed deadlines. The most effective path to a goal is a straight line, and scope creep is zigging and zagging. This is where a change order process becomes your negotiation playing field.
On each new customer engagement:
- Review the terms of the engagement with the team.
- Implement a policy that special requests must be approved by management or a change order process. Some team members might not be comfortable telling the customer “okay and I’ll create a change order for that request”. If your process has been discussed in a project kickoff meeting it will be the customer expectation and your staff will find no resistance unless the request is frivolous.
- Make sure to track anything you do for free and present it as added value. During projects, sales cycles and support cycles for that matter, you always have communication with your client. Make sure they know you’ve added to their profit.
DON’T FORGET THE BIG PICTURE and that’s to have a trusted advisor relationship with your customer. Sometimes giving away your time is good business especially if customer requests are small and inconsequential to you but of high value to the customer. A customer never wants surprise charges or delays in a project, so avoiding unauthorized scope creep prevents extra charges and missed deadlines.
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