It was a couple of days before the end of the quarter. I was a VP back at Salesforce when one of my reps came to me with a request.
“Hey David, I’ve been working with this customer for a while now and I think we can get the deal done by our deadline. We have all the terms ironed out. The only thing is, they’re asking if they can pay quarterly instead of annually. Can we get that approved?”
For context, we technically could, but in SaaS sales, annual payments make a big difference to the bottom line so reps are encouraged (if not incentivized) to position the larger single payment.
“Are you sure we need to grant the quarterly payments?”, I asked.
“Well,” he continued, “I don’t think they’d ask for it if it wasn’t important and it’s the last thing we need to get the deal done.”
I wasn’t convinced.
“Are you sure?” I repeated. “You know annual payments make a big difference to the business. You said the customer obviously prefers us and is ready to move forward. What would happen if you went back to them, told them that you’ve rarely seen quarterly payments for a deal of this nature get approved, and ask them if was a deal-breaker?”
“Oh, I’m not sure David. We’ve only got a couple of days before the end of the quarter to get this deal done and I’m not sure we want to risk it.”
I encouraged the rep to give it a shot under the condition that, worst case, if it did turn out to be a deal-breaker, we could always seek approval.
Lo and behold, the rep returned to me a short time later with a surprised but excited look on his face.
“Would you believe it, I asked the customer and they said the quarterly payments weren’t a deal-breaker. They’re signing now!”
(and they did)
How to Stay Strong on the 10-Yard Line
In an effort to secure revenue before the stroke of midnight, we sometimes allow customers to inundate us with request after request for concessions (which we sheepishly run back to our managers for approval). Unfortunately, when the deadline is near we don’t always have the ability to take our time with tactics like aiming highing and negotiating slowly. But in a negotiation, the terms and conditions a customer throws at you (typically in the form of price) are usually their minimum position and sometimes they ask for concessions just to ask! If you’ve done a good job of positioning the value of your solution until this point and have a good relationship with the customer, don’t be afraid to push back.
If you’re concerned about coming off as too defensive, you can respond to a request for a concession with something like:
“Oh, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get approval for something like that. Is it a deal breaker?”
It’s an easy but highly effective way of knowing if it matters. Often times it won’t and the simple question will save you from granting a whole host of unnecessary concessions, especially in the final hours. But this is more than just experience talking!
Science Says You’re More Persuasive Than You Think
In a study at Cornell University, participants were asked to estimate how many strangers they would need to approach before they found someone willing to fill out a questionnaire, make a donation to a charity, or let the participant borrow a cell phone. The result: when the experiment was carried out, strangers turned out to be twice as likely to say “yes” as initially guessed!
It’s the classic story of the attractive person who waits at the bar, hoping to meet someone fun and interesting, only to leave alone because no one had enough courage to walk up and introduce themselves. All too often, when our quotas and commissions are on the line near the final buzzer, we psych ourselves out and think that everything a customer asks for in the heat of a negotiation is critical.
The reality is, it won’t be!
So when in doubt, remember, you’re more persuasive than you think! Just ask if it’s a deal-breaker and see for yourself.
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