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Commitments need to be made in each step of the sales cycle by the prospect as well as the salesperson.


Sales managers are always asking me to come and teach their salespeople some closing techniques. I’d love to but the problem is I don’t know any “closing techniques.” Anything you could do to make a prospect buy who doesn’t want to would cause buyer’s remorse or cancellation anyway.

Closing shouldn’t be hard; it is just another part of the sales cycle. Closing the deal only becomes hard when the prospect is not ready to buy. Sounds simple enough so why do sales that were supposed to close, stall or never close? Why do salespeople think prospects are ready to buy when they are not?

How do the salespeople get all the way to the end of the sales cycle with a prospect and not know whether or not the deal will close? It is because the salesperson has moved forward in the sales cycle and the prospect has not.

In these circumstances the salesperson may be thinking:

  • “I’ve done everything I can, given you all the information I have, answered all of your questions and provided for all of your requests. Why won’t you buy now?”

The prospect may be thinking one of the following:

  • “I am not ready to buy so I don’t know why you expect me to.”
  • “You have overwhelmed me with information that I now have to explain to the others involved in the purchase and they are all too busy.”
  • “This was a priority for others in my company so I rushed to get everything they needed and now it is on the back burner and I don’t know what to tell you.”
  • “Although I understand your product’s bells and whistles I still don’t really know if your product is the best solution for my needs.”
  • “Our priorities have changed and I don’t have time to call you back or I feel bad so I don’t want to call and tell you our decision.”

Effective closing starts with getting a commitment. Commitments need to be made in each step of the sales cycle by the prospect as well as the salesperson. Typically, salespeople don’t think about getting the prospect to commit until the end at closing time. Salespeople are very good at making commitments and giving information to their prospects.

They know everything about the product or service they sell and are enthusiastic to share that knowledge. They feel their solution is the best and of course, the prospect should choose it. We want our salespeople to feel this way and the reality is that the prospect may not.

We want our salespeople to get good at getting commitments and information from the prospects. This should be easy if the salesperson is seen as a problem solver and not someone who is pushing their product or service whether it fits or not.

“So this is my closing technique: Go back to the beginning of the sale and do it right.”

When approaching a prospect, salespeople need to start by asking questions to understand the situation and determine if their solution is a good fit. Once they have done that they should share only the information that shows how the product fits and educate the prospect in any areas needed. If the interest continues they should ask for a commitment from the prospect.

Answering questions like the ones below, making introductions, reading or reviewing material for the next conversation, scheduling another meeting or trying a product and rating it are examples of commitments a prospect could make. Sales managers should help salespeople come up with commitments that are appropriate for each step in the sales cycle.

In order to move a sale to the close, good questions need to be asked in the beginning. Here are some examples:

  • What is your budget?
  • Who else besides yourself will be involved in making the decision?
  • What is the best way to include everyone involved in the decision-making process?
  • What is your timeline for implementation?
  • What is your timeline for making a decision?
  • How will our solution meet your needs?
  • What other solutions have you considered?
  • When should I get back to you to learn about your decision?

One of my clients who sells audiovisual equipment to the hospitality and retail industry was working with a small restaurant chain. They had been talking to the general manager who said he had the decision making authority. They got him all the information he needed and gave him a quote but couldn’t get him to commit to a demonstration which was necessary to close the deal.

This took 3 sales calls and some phone calls and email over a 2 month period. It felt like the sale was moving forward because he asked for a quote and gave every indication that he would buy from them. After he received the quote the salesperson called to review it and the general manager told him he would get back to him.

After a week the salesperson tried to follow up and left a message. The general manager didn’t return the call. The salesperson emailed, no reply. Two weeks went by, still no reply. The salesperson was sure this deal was going to close as soon as the quote was received.

When the salesperson described this to me I asked a few questions and then encouraged him to do a little research and then call the general manager with the new information in mind. It turns out that the owner had delegated the decision to the general manager and then decided that he needed to be more involved.

This stalled the process and was probably a little embarrassing for the general manager. I helped the salesperson figure out how to make it easy for the general manager to bring the owner up to speed and look like a genius, but it took some time.

This could have been avoided if the salesperson had gotten a commitment early on to meet the owner even though he originally was not involved in the decision.

If the prospect won’t answer the questions or make any commitments it is a signal that the sale is not moving forward. Either find out why or go work on some prospects that are ready to buy.

Follow up with that prospect in a couple of months when things may have changed. And even if they have purchased from someone else, follow up and see how that worked because it may not have.

Here are my tips for getting the commitment:

  • Develop a relationship with all the people involved in the decision.
  • Ask good questions and listen so you can gather information to understand their needs.
  • Give them the information they need.
  • Ask for commitments at appropriate times.
  • If you can’t get a commitment this is a signal that the sale is not moving forward and you need to do something different.

Closing the deal is really about getting commitment and the final commitment is making the purchase.

About the author

Alice Heiman

Alice developed her expertise in sales while at Miller Heiman, Inc before striking out…

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