Quiz: Can You Handle Last-Minute Demands?

Few customer behaviors are more irritating than surfacing new demands at the end of a sales cycle. Do you know how to deal with them?

This post contains two very common selling scenarios, with multiple choice answers. Answer both scenarios correctly, and you've earned bragging rights for the rest of the day!

SCENARIO #1: You're meeting with a prospect to close on a first-time opportunity that will involve years of follow-on business. You've discussed terms and conditions in detail and you've gotten firm verbal agreement. At this final meeting, though, the customer confronts you with a new list of demands, saying: "If you can't meet these conditions, the deal is off." You examine the list. None of demands are, by themselves, deal breakers, although they would reduce your margins.


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The correct answer is Refuse to Consider Them. Here's why.

Last minute demands - the ones that magically appear after a negotiation has been largely completed - aren't always what they seem. Most of the time the customer is merely testing you to ensure that the negotiated deal is the best possible agreement.

Giving in to such demands undermines your credibility and will probably result in further demands. If you give in to this last-minute stuff, you're simultaneously telling the customer that you can't be trusted, and that you're a push-over. And that's going to cause problems in a long-term relationship.

So, the correct response is to hold firm to your position. In most cases, the customer will be relieved at this confirmation of your legitimacy and will take the demands off the table.

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SCENARIO #2: You're meeting with a prospect to close on a major B2B opportunity. You've discussed terms and conditions in detail and you've gotten firm verbal agreement. At this final meeting, the customer confronts you with a new list of demands, saying: "If you can't meet these conditions, we'll go with your competitor." In your opinion, the threat is viable and the competitor could indeed address the prospect's problems at a lower price.


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The correct answer is Stall For Time.
The truth is that you're not really ready to close. The discussion of terms of conditions was premature and you're fooling yourself.

The process of moving a sale towards negotiation is the process of eliminating the customer's options. At the beginning of a sales cycle, the customer is open to multiple solutions from multiple providers. By the end of the sales cycle, you need to convince the customer that your product or service is the only one that can adequately fulfill the customer's needs.

Therefore, you don't go into a negotiation until after you've eliminated the competition from the picture,. You haven't done that, so you need to take a few steps back in the sales process and make what's unique about your offering something that the customer can't do without.

If that sounds too difficult, you can agree to the demands, but you're definitely building a dysfunctional customer relationship and you'll end up regretting it eventually.

BTW, the above information is roughly based upon a conversation with Randall Murphy, the president of Acclivus R3, a performance consulting and professional development company that specializes in sales negotiations.