The Components of a Strong Up-Front Contract

7 Min

Not all contracts are effective.

Set a strong verbal agreement with your prospect.

An up-front contract is a mutual agreement that allows you and your prospect to drive toward shared goals.


Every strong up-front contract has four parts:

1. Purpose

Both you and your prospect should explicitly state what you want out of the interaction. For example, if you’re hoping that they’ll end the interaction with a decision, and they think they’re just gathering information, you should level set ahead of time and agree on a shared purpose.

2. Time

Clearly express when, where, and for how long whatever you’re agreeing to will take place. If you’re meeting for one hour on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., put it on both of your calendars. If they’re going to send you materials, set a deadline for when you can expect them.

3. Roles

What do you and the prospect have to do prior to and during the conversation to fulfill its purpose? For example, the prospect’s role might be to “describe the problem” while yours might be to “ask questions and analyze information.”

4. Outcome

How do you expect the interaction to end? Typically, the outcome is a decision to end the process or move forward. If the decision is to move forward, you should decide on next steps as well. For example, a yes after a presentation would move the process toward signing agreements and discussing referrals.

Making an up-front contract can feel a little awkward. So let's look at how a strong one and a weak one play out in an example.

Set clear expectations with your prospects.

Download the up-front contract builder on the following card:

Time for a quiz.

Jessica’s at the end of the meeting and just said “I want to schedule another meeting next week to get a better sense of your problem. I’ll ask you a few more questions, and I’m assuming you’ll have more questions that I can help answer. Does an hour on Wednesday at 2 p.m., back here at your office, work for you?” What is her up-front contract missing?

Quiz 1 of 1

What is Jessica's up-front contract missing?

Outcome: she didn’t clearly state the decision that they would reach at the end of the meeting.
Time: she didn’t state an explicit where and when for the meeting.
Roles: she needed to add more detail about how she expected to question the prospect.
Purpose: she needed to be more purposeful in the way she framed the contract.

The correct answer is A. 

Jessica needs to include an outcome for the meeting:

the decision they'll reach together about continuing the relationship.

By describing and agreeing to expectations, you and your prospect are both likelier to leave the conversation satisfied.

Lesson complete