All of us, as we develop as sales professionals, learn that we need to seek commitments from the customer. The commitments are, often, small. A commitment for a next meeting, a commitment to provide information, a commitment to check references, a commitment for a demo, a commitment for…..
These commitments help keep us engaged with the customer and, hopefully, they with us. And, as we have been taught, the more commitments the customer makes with us, the better positioned we feel we might be. We also tend to think of commitments as progress–progress in developing the relationship, progress through the buying cycle.
And each of these commitments lead us to the point where we can ask for the commitment we care most about, getting the order.
Often, we are taught to nibble away, we have questioning techniques that elicit the smallest of commitments, “I see your point…” “We are considering your solution…” “OK, I’ll see if other people are interested in meeting….” Each little commitment is progress, at least they are still talking to us. The process, sometimes, seems like an endurance race, with the view if we keep getting them we will eventually win.
It’s interesting, when we talk of commitments, we talk about commitments we need to get from the customer, but seldom about the commitments we need to make to the customer.
But, perhaps, we are focusing on the wrong commitments from the customer. Perhaps, the more important commitments are the commitments they make to themselves, their teams, and management to achieve the goals that initiated the project and buying process. Have they done the things they need to do to define what they are trying to achieve, are they learning the things they need to learn, are they engaging the people in their company that need be engaged, are they asking themselves the right questions, are they assessing the risks and developing strategies to manage them, are they making progress to achieving their goals, are they achieving and maintaining consensus……
We focus on the commitments customers make to keep us engaged, yet the biggest challenge is the customer achieving the commitments they make to themselves and their management.
Because the customers fail to meet the commitments they need to achieve, they get lost. They get distracted, shift priorities and directions, wander, or abandon the project, altogether. Often, the customer may not understand the commitments they need to get or achieve with each other. After all, in complex B2B, they haven’t done this before, so they may be missing important things.
The most important commitments are those the customer needs to make to achieve their goals. Perhaps, as such, we need to commit to doing everything we can to help the customer meet their commitments.