The negotiation of a contract and the negotiation of an order may seem like more or less the same concept, and to an extent they do have similarities, but they are very different states of affairs. The old saying about being a voter versus being a constituent comes into play in these instances more than most anywhere else. Your company needs to recognize the difference in order to be successful.
Your Courtship With Clients
When you or someone from your sales team first meets with a potential client, this is rather like a first date. You both barely know anything about each other no matter how much intelligence you have read about them, and the meeting has to go reasonably smoothly if anything is going to happen in the future. Rather like with any courtship, you are going to be on your best behavior and do your best to show how great your company is to work with. However, you are also facing off against the built in resistance of the client because they know you want to make a sale.
Often, potential clients are very resistant to salespeople because of the perception that anything that needs a person to sell it must not be desirable. Just getting your proverbial foot in the door can be difficult enough. Once you have made a good impression, the truly difficult parts begin: first you have to lock down a contract and then you have to get the ordering taken care of properly. Particularly during the early parts of your client relationship, there is a lot that can go wrong if your systems are not set up very well.
The Contract Stage
Negotiating a contract is the stage where both you and the client are fairly certain that you want to work together but nothing is solid yet. At this point, any perceived weakness on your company's part is likely to break the deal and have the result of wasting a lot of people's time. When you finally close the deal, you may be tempted to think that the real work is done. Sadly, you are only just beginning to have the potential for problems to crop up because this is where you show your company's true colors.
The Order Stage
Okay, you have a contract written up and the ink from both parties' signatures is dry. Now you can go into production and distribution mode. Here you can show off how well you handle the side of your offering that actually makes your and the other company money, and here is where you have to show off how well your company's systems work. If they do not, you can end up irritating your partner company and alienating them early in the relationship. This can complicate your future potential for receiving orders from them and can even break a contract.
Continuity of Orders
Your ultimate goal with any set of negotiations is to take a company that you are not working with and turn them into a company that you will continually work with permanently. This means assuring them by both your words and your actions that you can be trusted to provide what they need for a long time to come. Rather like with the dating example above, you want to show you that are the kind of partner that is ripe for marriage instead of just a player who is looking to date around but never accomplish anything serious.
Making a great impression is an important part of doing business. But ultimately the best impression is one you keep making permanently.