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Sales Solutions
Commitment as a Key to Closing Business

(part 1 of 2 Tips on Commitment)

vol 1, issue #3
August 1, 2003

Almost every one of us has, at some point in his or her career, been in the following situation: You spent weeks, or months, diligently working a deal, investing yourself in it fully, bending over backwards to give the prospect what he asks for (or what you think he needs), only to be left out in the cold, the victim of a suddenly uncooperative counterpart, or worse, of the inexplicably unreturned phone calls.

Why does this happen to a prospect who seemed "so interested", and "so well-qualified"? It has to do with commitment. Who makes it, and who doesn't.

Commitment is a two-way street. In a romantic relationship, a commitment is required by both parties for the relationship to work, to be successful. If you are the one who is always doing, always giving, always going the extra mile, while the other party is doing little or nothing, what does that say about the relationship, and its chances of lasting? Not much! What would you do in such as relationship if - despite you best efforts - the other party simply didn't reciprocate? You'd leave the relationship, of course, and - after a suitable amount of time - you'd go find someone who truly does want a relationship and is willing to invest in developing it and making it a success.

So too in the selling arena. If you find that you are the one always doing, always giving, always going the extra mile, while the other party is doing little or nothing to move the deal forward, you must evaluate whether the deal is worth the time you're spending on it, and consider that your time might be better spent elsewhere. But before pulling plug, ask yourself a few questions. Start with, "why isn't he investing anything in this deal?" The answer may be as simple as you haven't asked him to! Remember, people are basically lazy - if a father doesn't tell his kid to take out the garbage, do you think the kid is going to do it? Well, if you aren't asking your prospect to do something - schedule a follow-up meeting, discuss your proposal internally, do a competitive analysis, run some numbers by the CFO - whatever they've told you are the things they do when considering purchasing a product such as yours - chances are they aren't going to get around to doing it on their own.

Also, consider that the less skin in the game a prospect has, the easier it is for him to walk away from the deal ("I've only wasted a single half hour meeting"). On the contrary, the more committed a prospect is ("I've invested 20 hours in this, I've involved five other people, this project was in the company newsletter, and it's on my boss's boss's radar"), the greater the ramifications, the fallout, of not following through. Think about it - would you be as quick to leave a romantic relationship in which you'd invested three years, as you would one you'd be in for three weeks?

Action item

Get out of the habit of simply "doing more" for your prospects in the hope that it will move your deals forward. It won't. The next time a prospect asks you to do something for him, agree, but also ask him to do something for himself (and indirectly, for you). If he asks you to do some research, ask him to schedule that meeting with his boss he'd told you would need to take place if the deal is to move forward. Equally important - and this is where most of us get complacent - the next time you offer to do something for your prospect (especially if it's going to involve a significant investment of your time), be sure to ask for a reciprocal commitment on his part (this commitment need not be of the same form, i.e. you may be offering to invest time, whereas you may ask your counterpart to invest political capital, or do a sales job on a key player. The point is to make sure that over the course of the deal, you are both investing in activities of more or less equal significance). And what if your prospect refuses, or stonewalls? Be prepared to walk away. You see, this approach has the added benefit of weeding out prospects who are not sincere in developing a mutually profitable relationship with you, or have a hidden agenda, who may be in bed with your competitor, or who are just plain tire-kickers. The sooner you find this out, the better, so that you can redirect your efforts to prospects who are committed to working with you to purchase a solution such as yours.

Good Selling!

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