Increasing Productivity Using Up-Front Contracts
As a manager, have you ever experienced any of these issues?
– Your meetings run late, and you’re constantly trying to catch up
– Your meetings don’t really have an agenda, and if they do, they get off track too often
– There are no actionable next steps agreed to by all sides
In today’s world, it’s harder and harder to spend quality time with your team, so you must make sure each interaction is impactful. This means creating agendas for the meeting and setting action steps.
The Up-Front Contract concept in the Sandler Selling System can be applied directly to management situations. Up-front contracts are mutually agreed-upon expectations between individuals that are established before moving forward in any endeavor. In sales, when you set an up-front contract with a prospect, both of you have agreed to what will happen next, provided that a specific set of events occurs. The mechanics are more involved, but the concept is simple. Up-front contracts are the manner in which each party states to the other: This is what I expect, and this is what I will give.
In sales management, when you and a salesperson have an up-front contract, both of you know exactly what is supposed to happen next. That way, neither you nor the salesperson will be surprised later on.
The right up-front contract between a manager and an employee affirms that the goals of the company – as manifested in the manager’s expectations and in the department’s goals – will be met. Up-front contracts also provide a way for the participating individuals to reach their own goals, with respect to their own well being, pay, advancement or any other reinforcements that are meaningful to them.
When you set an up-front contract, you are establishing the working relationship between yourself and your employees. The contract describes for the employee which behaviors are expected in order to achieve those aspects of the departmental goal for which that employee will be responsible. For a computer analyst, the goal could be a component of a software package; for a salesperson, the goal might be expressed as a sales quota.
By discussing mutual expectations on how best to achieve the goal, you establish what is expected of the employee and what you need to provide. This may be stated explicitly. For instance, the employee may need training to achieve a particular outcome. Or, specific coaching may be required to keep an employee on behaviors necessary to achieve an outcome. Certain supervisory checkpoints may be described and then established to maintain the flow and pace of work.
Purpose: Why you are both here today?
Time: How much time are you each agreeing to allot for the meeting?
Agenda: What does the salesperson wants to cover during this meeting? What do you, as the sales leader, want to cover?
Outcome: The potential decisions and/or next steps you want to see to by the end of the meeting (discuss this prior to starting the meeting).
Coach: Thanks for taking the time to meet today. This session will take approximately 45 minutes. I have blocked out the time so that we won’t have any interruptions. Is that still good for you as well?
Salesperson: Yes, I have blocked one hour, so we are fine.
Coach: Great. My feeling is that we should focus on prospecting over this period of time. What I’m hoping is that we will both contribute thoughts on ways to improve your effectiveness in this key area, and at the end of the meeting, develop some action steps for you to take on between this session and the next one. Are you comfortable with us spending our time this way?
Salesperson: Yes, I am. Sounds fine.
Coach: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Salesperson: Well, I know I’m struggling with developing a consistent prospecting methodology, and I know there are times when I avoid prospecting altogether because of that. Additionally, I’m having trouble dealing with the constant rejection I face on the phone.
Coach: OK. I’ll add those issues to the list, and we can deal with them during the session.
You will find your meetings are more productive, anxiety on both sides will decrease, and goals will be met if you manage your interactions with customers and team members to ensure you are both in agreement on:
Up-front contracts like these make your life easier, make the salesperson’s life easier, and lead to much more productive meetings. They do require more effort and practice – but this investment in time and energy pays off many times over. I95