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Packaging Matters

Simon Carkeek
230501 Packaging Matters
© Scotwork NA

There’s a little store in my town that sells handmade soaps, bath salts, lotions, and other fancy toiletries. Everything is very nice, but there are numerous other stores in town that sell similar products. So, why is this store always my go-to for gifts? Literally, it’s the packaging! Instead of just putting the product in a plain bag, they put it in a decorated paper bag with tissue paper and tie it with ribbon. This costs them nothing really, but it represents significant value to me and guarantees my future business.

Packaging matters. How a deal is presented will either move it forward or make it difficult to close. Packaging a deal successfully requires a deep understanding of the other party's needs, wants, and motivations. When negotiating, this might mean we need to rethink the way we present our proposal if it is initially rejected. Was it rejected because it wasn’t enough (adding more might be expensive) or because it was presented in a way that didn’t meet the other party’s needs?

A few years ago, before joining Scotwork, I was at an impasse with a potential client on a significant new piece of business. I worked for the events division of a well-known publisher, and the client had approached us to partner with them on their event. The publication I worked for was very protective of its brand, particularly as it related to editorial independence. As such, all partner events were designated as “hosted by” (my organization) and “sponsored by” (partner organization).

However, my client had already run the event without us for two years and had no desire to be relegated from “host” to “sponsor.” My legal team was firm regarding the designation, but I realized that how we packaged this point could be a deal-breaker for the client. I pushed Legal on whether there were any circumstances where we would allow them to be designated “host.” Legal considered this and came back with a proposal to change the designation of both parties to “co-host,” as long as our logo came first on all materials, and we retained editorial oversight of the agenda.

The proposal had essentially remained the same in terms of deliverables, but we had changed the packaging — essentially keeping the deal’s value while changing its shape. This arrangement met all stakeholder needs and allowed the deal to go through.  

The next time your proposal is rejected by the other side, try to understand if you just need to repackage the proposal to make it acceptable. Try the following . . .

  • Don’t assume it’s just about money. Often, we assume a deal is rejected because it’s not valuable enough, and dealmakers react by offering more money. Before you do that, ask why the deal was rejected — it might be how it was packaged. 
  • Find out how they need to sell the deal on their side. Almost everyone has to sell their deal to someone else internally. Understand how to package your deal for the other side’s stakeholders.
  • Learn to speak their language. Find ways to translate your needs into their terms. The better you learn to speak the other side’s language, the easier it will be to package deals they can agree to.

It’s amazing what a decorated paper bag with tissue paper and a ribbon can do to change the perceived value of something. But sometimes, the packaging will make all the difference in the world to getting a deal or not.

We Can Help You Repackage Your Proposal.
Has the other side rejected your team’s proposal? Instead of adding more value, they might want to consider repackaging the proposal. We can help! Draw on Scotwork’s nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience to get better deals, save time, and create value that preserves and strengthens relationships. Partner with one of our advisers to ensure you have the optimum view of your deal.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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