I want to credit Anthony Iannarino for stimulating my thinking in his excellent recent book “The Lost Art of Closing”. In it, he places great emphasis on the power of securing progressive commitments from the customer throughout their buying cycle.
I started to wonder whether commitment questions weren’t the axis around which all the other SPIN® questions could be helped to revolve – and the seed of this idea is actually contained within the original book.
Rackham makes the distinction between conversations that result in a continuation (the prospect is willing to continue to engage with us but fails to move forward) and an advance (the prospect agrees to do something that moves the sale forward in a significant way). But how can we be sure that we’ve managed to secure an advance?
A MISSING LINK?
I believe that Iannarino’s commitment questions offer a potential missing link. They help us to qualify our opportunities, to test understanding and agreement, to achieve and confirm advances, to maintain momentum in the sales process and can act as the axis around which the other SPIN® question types can revolve.
We can and should seek validation that our prospect is committed to invest time, to explore, to take action, to allocate finance, to actively collaborate, to build consensus, to provide feedback, to resolve concerns, to make a choice, to get their choice approved, and to implement their chosen solution.
STEP ASIDE ALEC BALDWIN
Creating series of progressive incremental commitments is far more powerful than hoping that we can rescue a failing opportunity at the last minute through some sort of manipulative closing technique worthy of “Glengarry Glen Ross”.
Here are a few typical examples of commitment question structures. I am sure that you can think of many others:
- Are you ready to […]?
- Are you willing to […]?
- Are you prepared to […]?
- Would now be a good time to […]?
- Would it be reasonable to ask you to […]?
- If I can prove […] to your satisfaction, are you prepared to […]?
- Would it make sense to […]?
- Do you agree that the next logical step would be to […]?
CONDITIONAL UP-FRONT COMMITMENTS
A particularly powerful type of commitment question is the “conditional up-front commitment” (I’ll acknowledge being inspired by a Sander Selling technique here). The basic concept is that at the start of a significant customer interaction, we agree a defined outcome, and seek the prospect’s conditional agreement to a pre-defined next step.
For example, we might say:
- “We have agreed that your objectives for [the activity] are to [their agreed objectives]
- In order to achieve this, I plan to [key agenda items] – is this in line with what you are looking for?
- If we jointly accomplish these objectives, would it be reasonable to agree upfront that our next step should be to [their commitment to a specific next step]?”
Can you see how powerful this approach can be? Rather than wait until the end of an activity to suggest the next step, we pre-negotiate it in advance. Everybody’s expectations are set consistently, and we know what we need to accomplish to advance the sale.
That’s just one of the reasons I believe commitment questions have the potential to become the axis around which all the other SPIN® question types revolve.
What do you think?