Get to the Deal-breakers Early – The Art of Qualification

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Recently, I had the opportunity (and distinct pleasure) of being called upon for some advice. A friend of mine had been approached with an opportunity to do some work on the side while she continued to grow her startup business. Some other matters complicated (and made more emotional) the decision with thoughts of family, friends, and personal feelings combining to complicate what might have otherwise just been a pure business decision.

There were a lot of “what ifs” in the mix and so I recommended she focus first on identifying her own deal-breakers for the potential opportunity. What were some no-go elements to the engagement that if not met, would prevent her from being able to accept the position? If these needs could not be met by the firm offering her the position, any subsequent negotiation would be moot.

I suggested she present these first, before spending a ton of time working through more minute details, because if these requirements could not be met, then both parties could go their separate ways without investing more time and effort in focusing on finer details of the proposal.

Often, we get in the weeds while negotiating. We focus too much on the finer details when one or two main elements of discussion are plenty to determine a good fit. This is why qualifying questions are a fantastic way to pre-determine fit. Is budget or timeline a major factor on which either party simply can’t budge? Team size or location? It’s good to get these major points established and agreed-upon early in negotiations to help save everyone time and potential heart- or headache later on.

At Relish, we have a few qualifying questions which determine a preliminary “good fit”. From these, we can quickly get to go/no-go to help all parties be confident we are a good match for one another. Here are a few of our qualifiers:

  • Goal-oriented/Growth-driven: Does the client have a strong understanding why they are making this investment?
  • Purpose-driven: Does the client have a component of their business fueled by more than simple revenue?
  • Established history: How long has the business been around?
  • Revenue/budget: Is the firm revenue-positive? Do they have a large enough lifetime value for their products or services to warrant this investment? Do they have enough yearly revenue to support the project costs?
  • Decision-maker: Are we talking to the right person to make the purchasing decision?

What are your qualifiers? Have you ever found yourself negotiating the minutiae before the big questions had been answered?