SOAP

In our recent rounds of negotiation consulting for our Clients’ year-end transactions, we saw one practice from a US-based sales executive that we admire greatly (both the practice and the executive).  You can use it, and if you are as successful as she is, you’ll be happy. It’s called the “Summary On A Page” (SOAP).

Maybe she got it from her children’s 6th grade English class, but a good idea is a good idea regardless of the source. For some reason, when we described this in Spain, our client there called it a SOAP. Maybe everyone knows this practice (although no one we discussed it with seemed to), or maybe this is an interesting case of cross-language acronym usage.  So SOAP it is.

If you recall our recent article “Procurement Gets a Ferrari“, you know that many buyers come in with “spend less than last year” as their goal. This is influenced by a couple of common negotiation facts:

1.    While a new agreement is often closed with the Line of Business and then with IT, the follow-up agreement is often managed by Procurement as an extension or an amendment.

2.    Procurement is often measured by cost savings.

Enter SOAP.  Many sellers are not familiar with the term “loyalty gap”.  A loyalty gap exists when executives that were promised a benefit, never hear about the results that accrue from their investment.  Since they never hear, they tend to think that the benefit was under-realized.  It creates a loyalty gap to you, the seller.

In the context of the loyalty gap and the amendment-via-Procurement, SOAP provides a simple tool that addresses both. Create a single page that describes, at a high level, what the client bought from you and which business initiatives each of those purchases supports.  In the best case, add to it the actual business value that was achieved through use of the purchased solution.  That’s a SOAP.

The first goal of this is to avoid the creation of the loyalty gap.  By reporting on the actual achievement of value (better or worse than promised), you will gain trust and loyalty from the people who bought from you.  It will earn you credibility going forward, and that improves your odds of success.

The second goal is that the client should not take what they got for granted.  In a recent real-life example, one of our clients told us that the solution they provided was entirely responsible for the tracking, billing and collection of €9B of revenue for their client.  The solution never failed, was 100% accurate, and every invoice was timely.  Yet, when their client wanted more of the same, the seller was struggling with how to lower the price.  The revenue that the solution collected represented 100% of the revenue for that company.  The buyer took it for granted, and since they never thought about the value, 10% cheaper was a good target to them.  A simple SOAP can change the perspective from “cheaper is better” to “must have at any cost”.

Create a SOAP, and use it to open every presentation from every member of your team.  Don’t let your buyer forget your value.  (td – with admiration for LHT)