Business Coaching ~ How to Select a Client and Produce Good Contract Negotiations

This looks at how a small business owner eager for business in an economic recession decides to select a client and do the contract negotiations so he protects and takes good care of himself.

I have a number of coaching clients who have little experience in knowing how to select a client or engagement for their businesses. One particular client of mine who is a fairly new consultant described a man who was extremely opinionated about how he wanted to run an event.

One of the top managers in the company seemed to be in opposition to the potential client about some of the systems and spoke about how certain IRS regulations were not being followed. The potential client was looking for an event planner for a wonderful event for women with breast cancer.

The more my client spoke with him about the possibility of a contract, the more he appeared to need a good consultant to make changes from his vision, a consultant to work with the development director and/or public relations officer, or new managers to run the fund raising and public relations aspects of the business.

The question for my client was if her potential client would let go of enough control to make the project worth her while. Or would this man be too difficult? Would she be able to have an influence on the legalities? Often in looking at a possible client one has to look at their ethics and values and whether or not they are a good fit for you.

Make a good needs assessment of the client’s organization.

In this case example we looked at what the client said he wanted; we discussed the aspects of a needs assessment and what the other manager was saying verses the potential client. My client looked at her calendar to see how much time she had vs. what was being asked for and what she assessed she would need. She also explored her costs and how they could be put into the contract.

I think it is very important to do a thorough needs assessment when deciding on a potential contract. The best way to do this is to have meetings and individual interviews with several levels of management in the organization. It might even take several rounds of meetings. Then you can look at your costs, your time, the value to the client, and how you want to make your presentation and recommendations. You might be investing a lot of your time just determining if you want this client or this engagement.

My business client decided to have another meeting with the organization to follow up on the needs assessment. She came back with additional questions about the company which led her to assess her own responsibilities, liabilities and normal business questions for her operation. Additionally she needed to explore the personalities with whom she and her staff would be working, the cost analysis, various contractual issues, and her schedule.

It seemed that after a week of studying these issues, my client determined the biggest concern for her was the possible personality conflict that could arise and how to handle it. Often my clients run into this issue – it is quite common at all management levels.

You want to determine, if you can, how it might affect the outcome of the engagement. The other large concern was the ethical or legal issues. This, she determined in the needs assessment, would be acceptable because the concerns were not founded.

Sometimes a needs assessment will give you this. If it is a small company you may not be able to have confidence in the answers you are getting. Do your due diligence.

What else do you need to do while doing the needs assessment?

Look at yourself and your company. Make sure you have looked at the things above – values, ethics, legalities, personality ease or difficulties, cost analysis, schedule, etc.

Proceed cautiously. Be sure to check with your own staff, advisers, or coach and your inner knowing. Be sure to take good care of yourself in taking on an engagement.

Determine how much you want this client, this engagement or scope of work, your level of competence in delivering the needs of the organization, how this will help you, and how it will affect your psychological wellbeing as well as your bank balance. There is more than a financial bottom line.

Because the economic environment is difficult for many small businesses today, look at how this one client would fit into your schedule for several months and how this contract could lead to a larger percentage of your business.

How do you think you handle yourself in client selection and contract negotiations?

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