Final Customer Commitment
The last stage of the sales cycle is called "closing the sale" or "achieving final commitment", which means the customer has confirmed they will buy.
Many people who enter into the world of sales go searching for a magic ingredient that will help them achieve more sales. The problem is that a magic ingredient doesn’t exist. It’s rarely ever one quick or clever sentence that enables your prospective customer to say yes. Sales pros know you must first open the mind of your prospective customer, gain their trust and emotionally achieve their acceptance (“buy-in”) to commit to the sale.
Complete customer commitment is an accumulation of every interaction you have had with your customer, from your very first telephone call or meeting to the time when you are ready to ask for their signature to move forward. The fundamental trigger in the mind of your prospective customer will be trust: trust in what you are saying and in the result you are saying they will receive.
Take an example of a salesperson selling dollar bills (crazy as it sounds). The salesperson offers you $20 for your $5 bill or $50 for your $20. Who would say no? But what if the salesperson was offering you $100 for your $100? Or $750 for your $500? Your decision is going to change in relation to the perceived value of what is being presented. Why? The psychology behind the thought process changes with each decision.
The $5 and $20 decisions were low risk to the customer, so you’d expect little thought and quick decision. But in the $100 for $100 situation, the salesperson offered something that yields no value to the customer, so why should the customer accept? The fourth option of giving $500 to receive $750 provides great value, but requires more investment—in time, money and trust—from the customer. Due to the size of the transaction and what could be the potential loss of $500, the customer needs more time to think about the decision, and also needs to have more trust in the seller. Reasonably, the prospective customer now has questions before committing: Are the dollar bills real? Who is this salesperson and why is he offering this to me?
The deal might sound solid to the prospective customer, but now the salesperson needs a story to get the customer to commit. The story has to be authentic, confirm there is little to no risk, and reconfirm the customer will absolutely receive the result promised. The story needed for one-call customer commitments are very different than for sales that require multiple calls before customer commitment is achieved. This is due to the level of trust that needs to develop and the amount of information that needs to be exchanged.
How do you achieve the necessary trust? It should be gained throughout your entire interaction with your prospective customer, reinforced first and foremost by the belief you show in how your product will absolutely benefit your potential customer in a way that no other company or product can. Trust is also achieved by building rapport; using sensory system dialogue that links with your prospective customer’s kinesthetic, auditory or visual communication styles; using sources like testimonial letters or outside statistics that confirm what you have said; and thoroughly educating your potential customer.
Sales pros always focus on educating their customers, whereas average performers focus their potential customers on fear of losing out or on a marketing program that is due to expire. Both tactics can be effective in the short term, but never in the long term. Your ability to educate your customer on why you believe your solution is the best option and how it will give them the results you have presented is the underlying objective that creates the connection to make them want what you are offering. The more you show how educated you are, not just about your product and their situation, but about your industry, the more confident they will feel in moving forward. Show your commitment to the field you are in by sharing market trends, research and future vision against past history, highlighting how significant the differences are or will be. Doing so reinforces your knowledge, enthusiasm and passion, which creates trust and enables your customer to feel comfortable not just making a decision, but the right decision that she believes will give her the best results.
Powerful questioning techniques that push customers into a corner and make them feel stupid if they do not move forward are outdated and not recommended. Your job is to help a decision move forward that you believe is the absolute best option for your potential customers. If you are a true professional and believe in what you are selling, the techniques presented within this lesson will increase your confidence in completing the sale.
Preparation From The Start
Closing a sale by asking for final customer commitment can be awkward if/when; early sale stages, the prospective customer considered you more of a consultant/friend/helper than a salesperson. This can happen because in the early stages of any sale, you rarely ask your prospective customer for anything that could lead to conflict (e.g., money or a signed commitment). What you are doing instead is absolutely everything you can to win her over to your product and your way of thinking.
Now you’re at the stage where you are asking the customer to agree to hand over the money or sign the agreement. Keep in mind that at this stage your prospective customer should not feel any hesitation to buy or feel intimidated into signing the agreement or handing over the money, since you have established that they can trust that what you have presented will offer what the customer is after. However, it goes without saying that money matters to everyone, and even the most committed people can change their minds and behavior when money is involved. Whether company money or your own, everyone knows the importance of it. Therefore, it’s imperative that you mentally, physically and emotionally prepare your prospective customer for the commitment from the start of the first call to when you ask for her commitment to move forward.
During every step of the way, consistently reconfirm how your product will benefit the company or individual. This reinforcement keeps all the decision makers and influencers focused on the result they will achieve with your product, as well as the knowledge that their investment will be counteracted by the value and return on investment they will be receiving. The majority of the sale is always made before the presentation is ever given, which reinforces the need to ensure that every stage of the sales process has been covered thoroughly before you attempt to ask for or assume the order. Make sure you have identified all the influencers and decision makers, and have taken the opportunity to educate them on the potential value and return on investment they and their company will receive with your product. It’s critical to incorporate their feedback from your questions into your presentation so they feel included in what you are asking them to commit to.
Asking for final commitment should be the easiest and most natural question you ask of your potential customer, and yet due to fear of rejection, it’s often the hardest.
Fear of rejection is the most common reason a sales person will not ask for the order. After all, you’ve had no rejection up to this point in the sales process, and you’ve been doing everything you can to impress them. Now you might get a “no.” “No” is as bad as it gets, but it should never be taken personally. Your prospective customer is potentially saying no to your product, not to you as a person.
It’s your responsibility to eliminate all the potential obstacles so you don’t receive a negative response, but inevitably, this situation will occur. The idea is to have it happen less often than more often. Keep in mind that people respect others who are professional enough to ask for something, especially if they have complete belief in what they are proposing and feel equally as sure that their prospective customer will benefit.
Closing Commitment Techniques
Following are some of the techniques that the Sales Pro uses to help support that comfort level to make that decision at the right time.
The techniques are geared more toward short sales cycles, however, a gentle tweak allows them to be incorporated at the appropriate time into specific stages. Note that some of these techniques are to be used only if the salesperson can offer what the customer is asking for.
Most people need to be asked for the commitment and are uncomfortable if they are left requesting the documentation (or your pen) in order to complete the paperwork. Be sincere and authentic, and create the mindset that you are only asking for their business because you genuinely believe they will benefit.
The ASSUMPTIVE technique
The ALTERNATIVE technique
The EASY QUESTION technique
The SIMILAR SITUATION technique
The I'LL THINK ABOUT IT technique
The ASSUMPTIVE technique: The psychological tendency for a person watching someone else is to naturally go with it, especially if their logic makes sense and it is in their best interest.
The most powerful commitment technique you can use throughout your presentation is to assume the sale or assume the next stage of the sale. The technique’s transition (from no commitment to commitment) is natural, smooth and subtle. The psychological tendency for a person watching someone else assume something, is to naturally go with it, especially if the logic makes sense. If there is no reason to not move forward, the customer feels relieved to let the decision be taken out of his hands. There is comfort in knowing that the person helping make the decision for you is absolutely sure in what it will offer. They are moving forward without hesitation, which prompts you to do so, as well.
Assumption also eliminates the need to ask a question, which could trigger your prospective customer to think more than they need to, creating a needless barrier. Therefore, don’t get to the end of your presentation and create an immediate barrier by asking for commitment to move forward; just assume it!
Gear your interaction and conversations with your prospective customer as though they already own your product and are benefitting from it. This creates a platform so that after all the hard work of finding your prospective customer, gathering information, preparing the right product, establishing matching benefits, arranging the time for the presentation and making sure all the decision makers are there, you flow naturally into the assumption of moving forward.
For example: “Mr. Jones, I’m going to arrange for all the paperwork to be automatically e-mailed to you. I just need a high-resolution image of your company logo for the advertising and the 10 percent deposit check.”
The average sales performer does not usually assume the order or even ask for it because of fear of rejection. They wait for the customer to say, “I’ll take it.” Unfortunately this rarely happens. Take control and assume your prospective customer is going to move forward. Doing so reinforces your belief that they are going to benefit exactly as you have presented, and will trigger your customer to move forward without thought or doubt.
The ALTERNATIVE technique: Requires asking questions with specific alternatives that lead to a commitment.
The alternative commitment technique involves asking questions with specific alternatives that lead to a sale. Take this question: “Would you like your coffee with one sugar or two?” Most people would answer either “One” or “Two,” or “I don’t take sugar in coffee.” They may not have even wanted a drink, or preferred tea to the coffee, but because of the question’s phrasing, the customer is more likely to accept the coffee as offered. The idea is to direct the customer’s focus away from the major decision of the coffee (what you want them to buy) and towards the smaller decision of the sugar (a different result that flows from having bought the product).
For example: “Ms. Smith, would you like delivery this week or would next week be better for you?” This sentence focuses Ms. Smith on thinking about what week to accept delivery. Her answer will confirm to the salesperson she has committed to buy. The salesperson can now move forward by asking for her bank details or credit card to get the paperwork completed so the agreed-upon delivery can be documented.
The EASY QUESTION technique: Instead of volunteering a "yes" answer, gain further commitment by prequalifying before answering.
Use the easy question technique when you get a question from your prospective customer to which you know you can answer “yes.” Instead of volunteering the answer, use this technique to gain further commitment or achieve the sale. Three examples are given below:
“Can you deliver in three days?” “Can we move forward if I can?”
“Does it come in blue?” “If I can get it in blue, will you order?”
“Do you offer financing?” “If I can provide financing, can we move forward?”
The assumed, alternative, and easy-question commitment techniques have all been designed so that a positive answer to your question confirms the sale or progression to the next stage of the sale. The techniques are only effective if you can do what your prospective customer is asking for, and a salesperson would only use the techniques if he could offer what the customer wants.
During the sales cycle, the timing of when you use these techniques is critical. Take the following example: Your prospective customer asks, “Can it go any faster?” If you get asked a question like this at the beginning of a presentation, it would be wise not to use it as an opportunity to ask for their commitment because it is too early in the sales process and would cause undue pressure on the prospective customer. Instead of answering “Yes, it does, all you do is turn this switch,” ask them why they are inquiring, and then tell them that you will cover that point later in the presentation.
When you feel the time is right in the presentation, you can reintroduce the point by saying, “Mr. Jones, earlier you asked if this system could go faster. Could you remind me the reason that speed is important to you?” Listen to their explanation and add another question if necessary to build the importance of what they have said. Then continue, “Mr. Jones, if I can show you that the speed can be increased, would you like to move forward?” If the answer is yes, then show the increased speed and assume the sale. If the answer is no, then show the increase in speed and continue on with the matching benefits and wait for another opportunity to ask for the order.
The SIMILAR SITUATION technique: Explains what happened to a previous client who decided to wait, who didn't move forward or who was undecided but ultimately moved forward.
The similar situation technique is used if you have already asked for commitment and your prospective customer is hesitant. The technique becomes a small presentation designed to bring your prospective customer around to your way of thinking without conveying an intimidating attitude.
In the similar situation commitment technique, you tell your prospective customer what happened to a previous potential customer who decided to wait, who decided not to move forward, or who was undecided but ultimately moved forward. Always use real-life situations that you can relate to your prospective customer. The reality of your belief will make your request for their commitment that much more powerful.
The I'LL THINK ABOUT IT technique: Hesitant clients just need more reassurance. This can be offered by re-confirming the results and focusing on the immediate return of the investment.
“I’ll think about it” is probably the most common objection you will have to overcome, and it occurs as a result of your customer being hesitant or not buying into the value of what you have presented. Although there will be times when your customer genuinely wants to think about the decision, there will also be opportunities where she just needs more reassurance. Through their questioning, the sales pro recognizes the difference and, if time is needed to review the decision, provides written confirmation of the product differentiation, matching benefits, results the customer will receive and the return on investment. The sales pro will then ask for an appointment commitment to follow up and review the details, ensuring the date is within the time frame that allows the salesperson to still offer the incentives that have been presented.
This is the worst-case scenario and is not recommended until you have tried to first uncover what it is the customer really wants to think about. The problem with “I’ll think about it” is that you have nothing to work with. They aren’t giving you an objective reason that you can overcome or answer. Therefore, you have to find out what the objective reason is.
People will typically say, “I want to think about it” if they are either:
Confused, doubtful or insecure.
They use this cover-up phrase instead of telling you the real reason, either because they are too embarrassed or don’t want to say no. It is at this stage that a confrontation could occur between the salesperson and the prospective customer, because the prospective customer is potentially saying, “I’m not sure I trust what you are saying.” This is the last thing the salesperson wants to hear.
Design a response that authentically and sincerely communicates your absolute belief that your prospective customer will benefit by moving forward. Your response will be different every time in terms of intonation, animation and commitment, but the content that creates the platform for your response should be similar. Keep in mind that the smaller the sale, the more impactful your platform response will be.
The subject of achieving final customer commitment would not be complete without discussing the time you spend on your business pending list or forecast. Sales pros balance their focus, time and energy on managing their existing accounts while finding and creating new opportunities. They never concentrate just on business they think might come in from previous presentations.
On the other hand, average sales people can fall into the trap of constantly spending their time calling on previous prospective customers who left them hanging with “I’ll think about it,” or “Send me a proposal.” They hope that when they call again, the prospective customer is going to say, “Oh wow, thank goodness, I’ve been looking for your telephone number everywhere. I want to move forward.” It rarely happens. Be creative while thinking of new ways to achieve final customer commitment from your business pending list, but don’t allow this list to detract from your overall focus.
Creative ways to establish whether your business pending is real and to move opportunities forward include:
1. Create a reason to present the system you are proposing if you haven’t already.
2. Offer the potential of a reduced cost. Tell your customer that although, as you understand it, price is not an issue, there is an opportunity to get an even better price. (Be creative and offer justification for the reduction.) Then ask if she would be interested. If so, tell her that you will find out what the new price would be and get straight back to her, preconfirming that due to inventory you would require an immediate decision. If she doesn’t bite at this, there is a good chance she will mention a reason you were not previously aware of as to why she cannot take advantage of the special price, which gives you the opportunity to respond. Telling your customer you will get back to them with a price instead of just giving it to them on your initial call increases your credibility because your customer isn’t feeling pressured too quickly to make a decision, and the length of time between your initial call and when you call back creates the perception that this really is a special deal that requires some kind of management approval. Confirming you will find out what the new price will be also allows them to respond, “Don’t bother, I can’t make the decision to move forward yet anyway,” which offers you the opportunity to ask why or gain a better understanding of how interested they really are.
3. Get your customer emotionally involved. People like to buy from people they like, so get creative. Explain that you are involved in a travel incentive or contest, and if her order were to come in this month, you would have the chance to win. Confirm that you hadn’t mentioned it because you thought the sale was going to move forward earlier. Now that it’s close to the end of the month or quarter, however, her order would really help you win. You’ll be surprised at how many people want to help, and even if they can’t, you’ll likely get the real reason as to why they can’t confirm the sale. Always keep your authenticity, regardless of how creative you are. Your complete belief in your product and how it will benefit your customer is absolutely critical, especially when using an emotional connection to trigger the sale or establish the real reason for not moving forward. It’s your job to do whatever it takes to continually move potential sales forward and reduce the amount of time hoping and waiting for the customer’s call.
Try it for yourself: At the beginning of the month, make a list of pending business. At the end of the month, see how much business actually came in. When you review the list, you may be surprised at how little of the pending business you actually closed. Analyze how you can transition pending business into orders while you continue to focus on new business development. You will get more constructive work done, and you will find yourself placing new orders. At the same time, business that has been pending will come trickling in by itself. Always analyze what calls you are making, because if you are just focusing on pending business by constantly calling or emailing customers, you are confusing activity with accomplishment. Although striking out on a potential sale is the last thing you want, the situation is bound to occur during your career. Learn from each situation and ask yourself questions regarding where you went wrong, how you can improve, and how you can benefit next time. Even after you make a sale, it’s wise to analyze your experiences to gain a deeper understanding of why you achieved the sale or why you did not. This information helps you grow as a professional salesperson and ultimately increases your chances of success in the future.