Every time you go out on a sales call, whether a physical meeting or a phone call, by definition you have committed your own and your company's time and resources to a possible buy/sell relationship. You should not be the only person in that relationship who has extended himself or herself in threat way. Unless your customer commits also, you do not have a Win-Win relationship.
Fig. 26, Getting Commitment section, collapsed
Furthermore, vague promises to "think about the proposal" or "get back to you sometime next month" are not signs of commitment. What you want before the end of every sales call is the customer's promise to do something by a specified date.
The commitment can be the kind of "high-end" commitment as defined in your Best Action Commitment, or it can be the "low-end" commitment defined in your Minimum Acceptable Action, or it can be something in between. But whatever level of commitment your customer agrees to, it should indicate unambiguously that he is willing to spend some of his company's time and resources, just as you have.
Getting commitment is the whole point of going into a sales call. When you don't get it, you realize there's been a disconnect. Since a commitment isn't free and also isn't automatic, if you want a commitment on every call, you have to ask for it. In a good selling process, with each sales call you should move the sale closer to an ultimate Win-Win commitment in a series of graduated steps. Because it's incremental, the level of commitment may vary from one sales call to the next. Therefore, Commitment Questions do the following:
- Move the sale toward closure
- Determine where you are in the sale
- Obtain the customer's agreement to take action that moves the sale forward
Fig. 26a, Commitment Question
To enter a Commitment Question, click the Add icon to open the section. Enter text into the input field for a specific confirmation question. Click one of the single select buttons at the top of the section to indicate this commitment as Best (B), Minimum (M), or Question (Q).
When to Use Confirmation Questions
- Before the end of every sales call, to ensure that the customer will take action.
- To learn what remains to be done.
When phrasing your Commitment Questions keep in mind that they are related to future efforts. Verbs such as determine, plan, schedule, propose all focus on what still needs to be done in order to keep moving toward a Win-Win result. Commitment Questions are often phrased effectively in the form of a statement-plus-question combination. However, the Commitment in relationship to future efforts is not your alone, but also the customer's efforts. A good Commitment Question focuses on what the customer has to do, or be involved in doing, to move the sales process forward.
How to validate your Commitment Questions
Review your Action Commitments and make certain that:
- Each Action Commitment is specific
- It focuses on something that the customer, not you, will do
- It can be documented objectively once it has been accomplished
- Given the current scenario as you understand it, it is still realistic from the customer's point of view
After writing your Commitment Questions you need to test them. each Commitment Question should be answerable by a simple Yes or No. For each Commitment Question as yourself the following:
- Does this question match the Action Commitment?
- Does this question ask the customer to take a reasonable action?
- Does this question indicate a specific date for the completion of the Action Commitment?
Suggested Items for Getting Commitment
If the Repository Icon is available, then Suggested items for Getting Commitment exist. Instead of clicking on the Add icon, click on the Repository Icon to open the Suggested Items list. Click on the plus icon to check one or more items in the list, then click "Done" to add the selected items to the Getting Commitment section.
Fig. 26b, Action Commitments suggested items list
Remember: When you can't get commitment, the process is stalled by a "Stubborn" or "Difficult" or "price-sensitive" buyer. The reluctance can be translated into the perception: "I don't see what's in this for me." In other words, this is a customer's Lose or No-Win perception and the sooner you can see and deal with a potential buyer's "Lose" feelings, then the sooner you'll be able to move the selling process forward.
Possible Basic Issues
A Basic Issue is any personal feeling a customer may have that results in his or her believing "I'm losing." Basic Issues are not concrete, quantifiable, "objective" realities, but from deep within the customer's individual experiences and value system. So they cannot be "overcome" or talked around like a reluctant buyer's objection. In fact a Basic Issue and objection are two very different things.
An objection is merely the manifestation of an underlying Basic Issue or the Basic Issue is the hidden cause of the customer's reluctance, while the objection is the visible effect.
What should you do with Basic Issues:
- You should never judge a Basic Issue. There are ways to analyze and discuss and work with those feelings, but the one thing you should not do, ever, is to deny their validity.
- Never assume that you know what the particular Basic Issue is. Since the "I'm losing" perception and non-commitment are always linked, it's safe to assume when you cannot get commitment that there's some Basic Issue Involved. In an effort to better understand how to clearly identify Basic Issues we have provided you a table of Possible Basic Issues that may assist you in determining someone's Basic Issue in the future.
Fig. 26c, Examples of Basic Issues
To enter a Basic Issue Question, click the Add icon to open the section. Enter text into the input field for a specific confirmation question. Click one of the single select buttons at the top of the section to indicate this is a Basic Issue (BI) or a Basic Issue Question (Q).
Fig. 26d, Basic Issues/Basic Question section
Best Action Commitment
Simply put, the Best Action Commitment is the high end of the commitment scale. It's the best level of commitment you can realistically expect your custom to make as a result of this particular sales call. Ultimately the Best Action Commitment would be a signed order, but that's seldom a realistic goal. Therefor for most calls-and for all but the last call in a lengthy, multi-call process- you'll have to aim for something less than the order. What you want throughout the selling cycle is incremental commitment that might be a reasonable Best Action toward the end of a complex selling cycle. Thus the Best Action targets should be in line as an action that is appropriate for where you are in the selling process and that builds on the client's past Action Commitments toward firmer future commitments.
Five things to remember when writing your Best Action Commitment
Is the Action Commitment specific? Does it define who, what where and when for the action?
Does it focus on what the customer will do?
Is the statement of Best Action measurable?
Does this Best Action Commitment move the sale forward?
Is this Best Action Commitment realistic?
Minimum Action Commitment
A Minimum Acceptable Action is the least you will settle for because it's the least the customer can do to make it clear to you that there's still a mutual interest in producing a Win-Win outcome. In defining a minimum Acceptable Action, you should remember the same guidelines laid out for a Best Action. On the opposite end where a Minimum Acceptable Action is at the low end of the scale, it should still be specific and stay focused on what the customer will (and can) do. The outcome of the action should also be measurable, realistic and still move the sale forward even though it may be a slower cycle.
If you find yourself having difficulty moving forward with a customer, the question may be related to a match between the Buying Influence's Concept and your product or service. If there is a potential match and you can't get even Minimum Acceptable Action on a call, you really have only three choices.
- Ask questions to uncover why the customer is resisting.
The most common reason a customer will not help you move a sale forward is that he sees the "progress" as a personal Lose or just doesn't see it as a Win.
- Revise your Minimum Acceptable Action downward in response to what's happening (or not happening) in the sale.
Moving toward this option too quickly, in fact, means you could end up on each successive sales call with less and less. You should consider revising downward when you walk into a meeting and find that the scenario is significantly different from what you had thought it was going to be.
- Close your briefcase quietly and walk out.
The final choice is a last resort action, but it's not one you should avoid at all costs because if you set your Minimum Acceptable Actions realistically and in accord with the guidelines out, there should be very few sales calls where the custom balks at your minimum. If he or she does, you need to ask: Is she really committed? does she really want to play Win-Win? In rare exceptions walking away may be the best choice.
Basic Issue Signals
Look for these signals during your sales call that may help determine Basic Issues
- Questioning attitude
- Repeated objections
- Passive resistance
In the same manner as adding information into the Possible Basic Issues section, you may enter different information into the defined Basic Issues section.
Basic Issue Questions
Basic Issue Questions are a specialized type of Commitment Question. Like Attitude Questions, they're often uncomfortable or unfamiliar territory for many salespeople, who may shy away from asking them because they're not used to them. A Basic Issue Questions dual purposes are to help you understand your customer's reasons for feeling that the situation is a Lose and to help you to uncover what still needs to be done to turn the situation into a Win. When phrasing a Basic Issue Question, it is appropriate to use key words like doubtful, puzzled and unclear for example.
The point of these questions is to move you away form the Basic Issue gray area in the buy/sell encounter.
- Uncover why the sale is not moving forward
- Discover unidentified issues
- Learn how a customer may lose
When to Use Basic Issue Questions
- After a No response to a Commitment Question.
- As a final test to ensure customer commitment
- When signals arise
Unknown Basic Issues
Describe the customer's Basic Issues
Confirm these Basic Issues
Ask how you can help?
Identify the appropriate actions
Always use your own feelings as a guide
Remember "Golden Silence"
Suggested Items for Basic Issues/Basic Issue Questions
If the Repository Icon is available, then Suggested items for Basic Issues/Questions exist. Instead of clicking on the Add icon, click on the Repository Icon to open the Suggested Items list. Click on the plus icon to check one or more items in the list, then click "Done" to add the selected items to the Basic Issues/Questions section.
Fig. 26d, Basic Issues/Questions Suggested Items list
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