Get a Commitment

By Heather Baldwin

If your next presentation garners nods, comments, such as very interesting, and friendly chat on the way out the door, would you consider the potential buyer a strong prospect? If you’re like the majority of salespeople, you’d probably say yes – and that’s exactly the problem most salespeople have, says Stephen Schiffman, author of Getting to “Closed”: A Proven Program to Accelerate the Sales Cycle and Increase Commissions (Dearborn Trade, 2002). Salespeople put too much stock in a friendly phone conversation or an upbeat response to a presentation and wind up wasting a lot of time pursuing contacts that otherwise have shown absolutely no commitment to purchase. “Salespeople wait for a prospect to say the word no before realizing that nothing meaningful will happen,” says Schiffman.

At your next presentation, listen carefully for the customers’ responses. If you get anything that sounds vague or commitment-free, you’ve probably got a no on your hands. After all, there are lots of ways customers can say no without actually uttering that two-letter word, says Schiffman. If customers fail to return phone calls, ask that you call back in six weeks or tell you they are planning to discuss your product with the president next week, in all likelihood they’re telling you no, according to Schiffman. The same goes for a noncommittal response to your presentation. If the prospective buyers won’t commit to a follow-up time or won’t agree on a next step to take, then regardless of how many times they tell you they’re very interested in your presentation you’re likely to be wasting resources if you spend too much additional time on them.

“If salespeople focus on managing their time efficiently, their incomes will increase dramatically,” says Schiffman. And the best way to manage time efficiently is to expend the most time and effort on the prospects who don’t just say: That was really interesting, at the end of a presentation. Instead, they say: That was really interesting – why don’t we meet again next Tuesday afternoon to discuss how your product might be implemented within our company?