They Want to Renegotiate…Now What? (Part 1 of 3)

Article by , May 23, 2021

It occurs in just about every business and it’s happening a lot now: the dreaded call from a buyer who says they need to renegotiate the terms of an agreement you have with them.

Usually, it comes down to a matter of money: they say they want better terms and lower prices. When this happens, it can feel like it puts you, the seller, in a tight squeeze.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Think prevention. The first thing you must do—to borrow a vintage line from the author Douglas Adams—is “don’t panic.” Recognize there are preventative steps you must take that will avoid everyone from having to go back to the negotiating table in the first place. Being preventative means looking at what you’re not currently doing—or not doing enough of. Here’s how to do that skillfully.

Always be networking. Far too many people wait far too long to network inside their client’s company. A solid internal network is your set of eyes and ears that build your knowledge base about a customer. The more you network effectively within their organization, the more you’ll understand all the facts in play with respect to a request for a new deal. A client of mine learned that lesson the hard way. When their buyer in the purchasing department insisted on a new deal with better terms, they had no network they could turn to in other departments (who could otherwise have helped them tackle the request pre-emptively). Without any internal support, they were left with no choice and had to renegotiate. As a starting goal, aim to have at least four solid relationships with internal stakeholders: people you can trust to help you understand what’s really going on in that company.

Find what’s behind. You must gain an understanding of what’s behind a customer’s renegotiation request. Is this just coming from one department (as with the above example)? Have they drawn a line in the sand, signaling that unless they get a new deal they’ll walk? Find out what the money represents to them in the new deal they’re seeking (i.e., are they facing a specific reduction target that must be met, or are they just shopping for a vaguely defined “better bargain?”) Asking questions to help you understand the true meaning of the request will allow you to see the bigger picture and present different ideas to the customer that could help them meet their savings targets without reducing the fees they pay to you.

That’s what Will (a client of mine) did—masterfully—just last month. After being asked to reduce the price of his product by 5%, he asked why they had that specific amount in mind. The purchasing department responded that the company was now directed to reduce overall budgets by 5%. All vendors were expected to comply. But Will realized he could help the company save even more than that. He proposed a product switch that increased the cost of his product but reduced the company’s reliance on expensive additional products. Now they could save over 7% annually. He convinced them to pay a little more…to save a lot more!

If your customer wants to renegotiate, you’re already too late to start taking preventive steps! That’s why you must get started now.

In the next article in this three-part series, we’ll look at what you need to do next when your customer is still pushing hard for a new deal.