Want to sell more? Get your prospects to commit a little at a time.

If you think about any sales funnel, your job as the sales professional is to convert a lead into a prospect and then a customer through sequential steps. Your job as a sales professional is to make this process as frictionless as possible for the buyer and to close the deal at the end of the funnel. Because this type of sales funnel is so ineffective, if you were trained on these sales funnels, you were most likely taught how to overcome objections. Because by forcing the buyer through a sales process, you are going to have objections. You see this promoted in books and seminars, but research indicates it is not how people buy. I have stated in other posts that buyers work through a buying process at the same time you are working through a selling process. Since they are doing their research before even speaking to you, they most likely already have some concerns or objections to your product. That is way waiting until the end of the sales process is the worst time to handle objections.

To better address the new reality in the sales process, sales professionals should ask prospects to make incremental commitments throughout the selling/buying process.

An incremental approach to sales has many benefits. It allows reps to glean more information from prospects and to gauge their commitment rather than just their understanding. This is a crucial difference in customer conversation. Usually, reps are taught to listen for phrases from prospects such as “Oh, that makes sense,” or “that’s a good point” or nonverbal signs like head nods. These cues mean only that a prospect is comprehending what you are saying, not buying into it.

Commitment from the prospect, on the other hand, requires action. For example, if you were to periodically ask your prospects to confirm that they agree with your offering’s ability to meet a certain need, and then ask if they will be willing to act on that agreement via some small action, you will receive more valuable feedback. If the prospect can commit, you can move on. If they don’t commit, you need to identify the objection or barrier and deal with it. For example, you are showing your offering’s ability to meet a requirement they had set forth early in the sales discussion. You show them your ability to meet the need and then ask them “Does that show you how we can meet {stated need}?” You will get the head nod or some type of affirmative answer. But to take it a step further, I add: “If this was the only thing we were solving for and the price was not an issue, would you feel comfortable moving forward with our product/service?” By asking the question this way, you are getting them to commit to your product or tell you what is holding them back. By saying “price was not an issue,” you eliminate the ability to give a cop-out answer of “well if the price is right.”

Doing this also improves your productivity because it allows you to gauge the willingness of your prospects to commit before devoting expensive resources to closing a deal. If they can’t commit, then avoid bringing in upper management, traveling to see them, entertainment or other costly sales activities.

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not the customer’s responsibility to make selling easy; it’s the seller’s job to align sales activities with actual buying behavior. So don’t treat closing as the last step of a linear process; instead, you should always be closing — always — throughout the sales process via incremental commitments.

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