The Negotiator Magazine

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Dear Steamed,

Thank you for your question. You are in a hole, but to dig yourself and your company out of it, I am going to suggest that the only course is more negotiation. This time, however, by you. It is past time to begin internal negotiations with your fellow department counterparts and top management, the most neglected and most important of all negotiation types. The real answer to these problems is not in the training of the sales force, but in the absence of corporate-wide and inter-departmental rules for the engagement. What you have is a negotiating problem, but its roots are in the lack of negotiated and enforced guidelines for acceptable agreements.

I have worked with companies in which standard products have been negotiated into disasters by sales personnel. A little tweak here and a little tuck there and we got another deal is the mantra. Due of course almost overnight done deal , and ... "Katie bar the door" if it's not right. Customer wishes or specs to follow.

All those little tweaks and tucks require development, testing, revision to meet vaguely articulated customer dreams, documentation, training, maintenance issues and, of course, the certainty of new tweaks and tucks to come. Untrammeled and undirected success of this sort is a "ticking time-bomb" currently in your lap, but soon to cast a shadow over the broader supporting force, the sales team and not too far down the road for the company itself.

The way out is through internal negotiation with all departments. From your perspective it means establishing reasonable development time-frames, true cost/revenue analyses, and investments in additional personnel and training. You and your group must prepare for these negotiations with solid numbers and proposals. These negotiations require establishment of new procedures with top-level sign-off on a written document of agreement. From there, the shoals may still threaten, but it should be a clear and united course.

Best wishes,

John Baker

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March 2005