Add punch to pre-call planning – don’t forget the commitment

Top sales performers know that closing a call means obtaining a commitment from the customer that moves the sales cycle forward.  Top performers optimize the probability of achieving that goal by planning the commitment they want from the customer during pre-call planning.  

Planning the commitment

In other words, before the call begins, they know where they want to end up.  During the call they assess and adjust the level of that commitment so the commitment they seek from the customer fits how the sales call fared.  

While some commitments apply regardless of the stage in the sales cycle, such as setting up a follow-up meeting with the same person, others commitments are specific to where you are in the sales cycle. For example:  

Often, early in the sales cycle, a sales person is trying to get information about the company and understand potential problems or concerns.  What might a commitment look like at the end of a call at this stage? Four are most common – another meeting with the person you’re talking with, the person’s help (i.e., introduction, leveraging the person’s name) in meeting others that will be key in the sale, access to information so you can refine your understanding of the issues, and access to those people who would be impacted by your solution.  

In the middle of the sales cycle, sales people might seek to gain commitments such as: a formal evaluation of your product or a demo.  If there is a committee making the decision – and more and more often there is – an introduction to the committee members or an opportunity to present to the committee are two common commitments. Another commitment is access to decision-makers and other decision-influencers you might not yet have met.  

Late in the sales cycle, sales people might seek commitments to help close the deal, meet with those in charge of implementation, or, when appropriate, referrals to others outside of the organization that you might be interested in your product.  

The first key is always to propose a commitment at the end of the call that moves the sales cycle forward. The second key is not to think about the commitment for the first time “on the fly” during the call.  Rather, think through potential commitments you might seek at the end of the sales call during your pre-call planning. When doing so, identify one commitment you think you’re most likely to achieve. Then identify two more commitments – a stretch commitment if the call goes exceedingly well and a fall back commitment if the call doesn’t play out as well as you would have liked.   

Planning the commitment is important … done consistently, it is the most effective way to shorten the sales cycle and close more business.  

And, of course, these seven points apply to formal sales presentations, too!   

If you like this post, you might want to subscribe to our blog, Sales Training Connection.   

©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC 

About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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