Use Pain To Get Commitments

Whenever I speak with new salesreps and entrepreneurs, I hear a similar frustration:

"I call a lot of prospects each week, most of which are really hard to get a hold of. When I do get someone on the line, I am thrilled just to talk to them. I sell a great product, yet very few of these people actually buy, even though they sound very interested."

So I usually ask them, "Did you get a commitment?"

The answer is... well you can guess the answer. Without a commitment, you are left hanging as to whether or not the sale is really moving forward.

Now this doesn't happen only with new salespeople. It happens with experienced salespeople also. I see experienced salespeople going after competitive deals all the time, forgoing commitments in the process. This is usually rationalized away as "I had to, otherwise the prospect would have cut me out of the deal".

Buyers love to do this to salespeople. To the extent that there is such a thing as "buyers school", they are taught to get multiple vendors bidding on a deal so that the prospect maintains control (for those of you in high-tech sales, I know that Gartner Group used to run seminars on how to manipulate vendors like this).

So instead many salespeople spend lots of time preparing price quotations, proposals, product demonstrations, arranging customer reference calls and site visits without knowing whether or not they will get the business.

Selling is a process of continuous negotiation and trading. I give you some of my time, you give me some of your time. I give you my product information, you agree to read it and tell me what you think about it. I give you a presentation, you agree to give me a decision upon completion of the presentation.

Selling is a series of incremental closes then, each one of which moves us closer to the sale. This is the most effective way to approach "closing". The "big close" doesn't exist here (it doesn't need to). You are being respectful of both the prospect, and most importantly, you are being respectful of yourself.

These incremental closes can occur within a single sales call, where you get the sale in one meeting. Or it can happen over the course of many days weeks or months as you work with multiple decision-makers in a large business-to- business sale.

So how is this done?

The key is to remember that anything and everything that a prospect wants is leverage in negotiating for incremental commitments.

Everything. Product info, names of customers, price quotations, proposals, product demonstrations, customer reference calls, meetings with your company experts. All of these things potentially represent value to your prospect.

Ultimately the prospect wants a solution to her pain. Each of these things represents a way of exploring and proving whether or not you offer that. You must learn to use the prospect's pain to get incremental commitments.

How? Simple. If the prospect really wants to solve her pain, then she will give you a commitment. Remind her of her pain. Then ask and be firm. If she won't give you a commitment, then either the pain is not important enough for her to solve, or you are not being taken seriously as a vendor.

You must negotiate the process of the sale with your prospect. You want to set the rules for what can and cannot happen during the sales cycle, and for what you should both expect of each other. Then negotiate for an advance of the sale for each offer of additional value on your part.

If her pain is not big enough to give you a commitment in the beginning, then it is almost certain you will not get a sale at the end. So stop here and move on to the next prospect. Offer to come back when she is serious about solving the problem.

Do not fall into the trap of believing that you have to demo / show / give away your info without any commitment. In retail sales this is the norm. Retail salespeople are paid to be on the floor talking to prospects, answering questions, and giving out free info, demos, brochures, etc. Everyone else should not sell this way. Unfortunately for the rest of us, most people's experience buying is in the retail world.

Oh, and don't go out and buy a book of closing techniques. If I hear another sales rep start a close with "If I could show you a way...", I will throw-up!

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at

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