Salespeople are called upon to perform many duties, from customer training to market analysis. But we must never forget the primary value we bring to our organizations, the real reason we remain on the payroll: We are excellent at gaining commitment from paying customers. Or, at least, we’re supposed to be.
Why don’t customers commit? Because salespeople don’t ask them to!
Yet incredibly, four out of six sales calls end without the salesperson asking the client to commit to any action that will move the process forward toward a sale. The salesperson presents some product information, maybe leaves some brochures and then walks away.
That is a travesty. Here’s how to prevent that from happening.
1. Always set a Commitment Objective before every call. You may have any number of valid goals for a sales call, but a Commitment Objective is a particular type of goal. It is an agreement you seek from the customer to do something that will move the sales process forward.
Your Commitment Objective is not always to get an order. It might be to get a referral to the real decision-maker, or to schedule another meeting with all decision-makers present, or to gain primary-supplier status.
Before every call, ask yourself: What commitment will I try to gain from this customer during the call? How will this commitment move the sales process forward?
2. Look and listen for buying signals. These may take the form of questions, statements or body language. “How much is it?” “How soon can you deliver?” “I like what you’re saying.” All of those are signals that it is time for you to ask for commitment.
3. Ask for commitment in a straightforward and non-manipulative way.
a) Summarize your product’s features and benefits, and quote price.
b) Ask, “What is your opinion of this?”
c) Ask, “Would you like to go ahead with it?”
Whenever you quote price, always ask for commitment. To put this another way, never quote price without asking for commitment immediately.
Once more, gaining commitment is the principal mission of every salesperson. But you won’t get it if you don’t ask. Begin your planning of every sales call by determining the commitment you want and how you’re going to ask for it.
In The Field:
Since 1990, when Patterson Dental (PDCO) began training its North American sales force with Action Selling Sales Training, the company has become the largest distributor of dental supplies and equipment in the United States and Canada.
Jim Violette, branch manager for the Spokane, Wash., facility, credits Action Selling for a dramatic turnaround at his branch. “My sales force acts like an entirely different team since we implemented the Action Selling approach,” Violette said. “Our skills at Gaining Commitment have dramatically improved.”
That’s an understatement, both for the Spokane branch and for the company as a whole. At nearly $1.6 billion in sales, Patterson has grown by 17 percent per year and increased its market share by 32 percent over the past five years.