Move the Ball Forward by Closing for Commitment

Always in our own end zone

When working the phones to acquire new business, our second and third calls to decision makers too often don’t “move the ball forward.” Instead, we end up with the same “field position” we had after our previous calls. Does the following response sound familiar?

Decision Maker: “Oh, hi. I’m sorry, who is this again? Um, gosh, no, I don’t think I ever did receive your information. Why don’t you go ahead and send it again and try me next month.”

We worked hard to get this person on the phone – twice -and now here we are, still near our own end zone with more than half the field to go for a touchdown!

Commitment = first down

The solution is to get decision makers to commit to a small action item before getting off the phone with us. This gives us some of their mindshare. Like a first down in football, it “marks our spot” on the field for our next play – starting our second call 10 yards further toward our goal than we were at the beginning of our previous call.

Why does this work? When people say, “Yes” or take an action item, that event automatically gains more conscious or unconscious space in their brains – even if that only means them feeling guilty for not doing it. And although it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll do something, it makes it more likely.

If I tell my boss I’ll turn in a report before I go home and I don’t, I’ll be thinking about it until it’s done. We’re more likely to go to a party if we respond “yes” to the RSVP. And we’re even more likely to do so if we signed up to bring the beer. (Ah, there are levels of commitment we can use!)

Who got the first down?

Which of these scenarios ends with a commitment from the customer?

Decision Maker: “Yeah, sure, feel free to call back next week and talk with my office manager, Joe.”

Decision Maker: “Yes, go ahead and call next week. I’ll let Joe know you’re calling.”

It’s a small difference, but in the first scenario you own all the action, and in the second, the customer takes on the action item of communicating something to Joe. Maybe he won’t do it, but he will think about you more than another vendor, and might even throw in an introduction to Joe on your second call.

Let’s try it from the sales person’s point of view. Which one ends with commitment?

Closer: “Hey, if you ever consider changing your vendor due to service issues, give me a call.”

Closer: “If I send you my contact information, would you please hang on to it and call me if your local vendor has any trouble meeting your needs?”

Although neither tactic gets the decision maker to identify his primary vendor, in the second scenario, you got the customer to say, “Yes,” and that makes him more likely to keep your contact card and remember you when you call next month.

The prospect’s action items might be as small as taking your next call or as big as doing research and calling you! As the sales pro, it’s up to you to determine how big a play you will run.

Just be sure to get the first down.

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