At its simplest, selling and buying is about a transactional exchange of a service or product for money.
For simple, low cost, transactional sales, where we may have little vested interest in the other person or company providing that product, we may not reflect as deeply on our buying interactions with them. However, if we discover that we have been ‘ripped off’ by paying too much for something, or unfairly treated, or discriminated against, and so on, we are more likely to become highly invested in the concept of fair exchange of value.
Living and working together requires us being able to have trust in others. If we cannot trust others we find it very hard to focus on the things that matter. We end up anxious and paranoid.
That is why a fair exchange of value goes beyond the transactional exchange of a service or product for money.
A fair exchange of value is reflected in our day-to-day dealings with other people, in post-sale attention and follow-up activities, in the service department and supplier chain, in contract negotiations, Terms & Conditions documents (T&Cs), Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), and so on.
What was promised to us is what we expect to receive – on both sides of the equation – for buyer and seller.
As good and honourable salespeople and businesses, we want to be able to make promises we can keep and keep the promises we make. Most people want to work with others (as opposed to working against others), knowing that what they do counts towards something, even something greater than themselves.
But not everyone wants to play fair. There are those people who want everything geared towards themselves and to hell with the rest of us. We only have to read Trump’s ‘The art of the deal’ to see this in action. Beware of anyone who plays by Trump’s rules.
These people play a win-at-all-costs game which may deliver short-term gains for them but in the long run, only makes things worse for all concerned.
So what can we do about it? How can we protect ourselves from the self-serving who are after victims instead of prospects? How can we establish the framework and build trusted relationships that thrive on the foundations of a fair exchange of value? Not only as buyers but as suppliers as well, you may be asked to sign T&Cs by your client.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Read the fine print and don’t accept things at face value
When sales move beyond the simple one-off transaction and get more complex, we need to make doubly sure that any arrangement we enter into is fair for both parties.
This is where much time and effort can be expended in contract negotiations.
We must start from the viewpoint that everyone has a vested interest and the last thing they want is to come off second best.
We must therefore read the fine print in T&Cs and NDAs and do not sign anything until you completely understand what arrangements you are getting yourself into. Only sign what you are prepared to accept. There are many clauses that can bring us down if we are not careful.
It may be tedious and costly, but it is worth investing the time and effort if you want to work out if you can start and keep trading with any person or entity.
Many businesses have standard T&Cs that might have made sense when they were developed or under certain circumstances but are out of proportion in dealings with you. You don’t have to sign. Ask for the changes you deem necessary to make the T&Cs fair to both parties.
- Be clear about what you offer and know your boundaries
What are you offering exactly and what is out of scope? Be clear with your clients about where your offer/current scope of work finishes. You will encounter people that always want more under the same deal. Be clear and specific from the get go.
On the other hand, be fair with what you offer and ensure your client perfectly understands your system/service/product. Delivering an offering that cannot be of full use unless the client receives specific training or particular implementation and not including such things in the initial scope is not fair either.
The worst thing we can do for everyone concerned is make promises we cannot keep. So make sure that your customer service and implementation teams know what has been agreed to and what is expected of them in order to deliver on our promises. Make sure that finance/credit/legal have vetted, understood and supported the trading terms.
- Be prepared to negotiate, compromise and find common ground
The devil is in the detail. Ethical, human-centred selling is about forging healthy viable relationships and recognising these relationships do not remain static and unchanged. Healthy relationships are designed to be stress-tested, to grow and change; they thrive on trust, openness and honesty, and result in new ideas and shared common ground on which to build better outcomes together.
In the end, recognise that every relationship that is built on fairness is an agreement built on common ground.
- Invest in an experienced contracts & IP lawyer to prepare your contracts
Having fair, clear and well developed T&Cs and NDAs is good for business. It’s easier for your customers to understand what they are getting and what can be expected of you and from them.
No matter what side of the deal you are in, a fair exchange of value with fair terms and conditions is the way to do business.