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How To Renegotiate Your Commitments

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
April 14, 2010

A week ago I posted about what you do when the train comes off the tracks and you run into problems executing your solution. I wrote that post to address how we deal with the big issues in execution. This post follows a similar path, outlining what to do when you need to renegotiate smaller commitments.

This post is a reminder that it is your responsibility as a sales professional to renegotiate commitments that you or your company cannot keep.

Sometimes we can’t keep smaller, simpler commitments that we have made. Professionalism requires that, regardless of how big or small the commitment may seem to you, that you honor your commitment or you renegotiate it.

Follow these five steps to renegotiate your commitments.

1. Communicate As Soon As You Know You Will Miss the Commitment

As soon as you recognize the commitment you have made isn’t going to be met, you are obligated to communicate that fact to your client (this includes the internal clients who are part of your team).

This communication should be done in person, especially if it is a large and meaningful commitment. If it cannot be done in person, then it should be done over the telephone. It should never be done over email. The sooner the better.

Problems and missed commitments don’t age well. Don’t wait to communicate. As time passes, your failure to communicate gives your client the impression that you are unprofessional and unreliable.

Professional salespeople and professional organizations deal with problems and challenges. Unprofessional salespeople hide from problems and missed commitments.

Can’t get the client their report? Need to reschedule a delivery date? Visit or call your client. Now.

2. Apologize

Apologize. The act of apologizing means that you are taking responsibility for whatever part of the failure was yours (or in some cases, complete responsibility).

Apologizing means saying you are sorry for the problem you caused someone else, explaining how the problem occurred, discussing what you will do to remedy the problem, and determining how you will prevent it in the future.

3. Identify What You Can Do and When and Discuss It

After you have informed your client that you will miss your commitment and why, you need to identify what you can do and when you can do it. There is nothing wrong with having some ideas about what you might be able to do and when you might be able to do it, but you have to remember that your missed commitment may mean that something changes for your client. Your client now has to participate in the decision in how you move forward.

Professionals in all businesses are used to dealing with choosing from a list of Plan B’s (or C’s). They are used to choosing from a list of inferior alternatives, and their own experience is, more likely, than not, a long history of choosing something less than the ideal. The game here is getting the outcome.

The best business relationships aren’t built on flawless performance. The best business relationships are built on solving problems together. Your client may expect perfection, but it is more likely that they expect resourcefulness and initiative. Their expectation is that you work together to identify alternatives that produce the same outcome.

4. Make Arrangements to Mitigate Problems

Sometimes the discussion of alternatives leads to ways that the problems can be minimized. Changes might be made that mitigate any damages caused by the missed commitment. It is your responsibility to work with your client to discover ways in which you might be able to minimize the problems caused by missed commitments and to make the necessary arrangements.

Can’t get your client the report they need? Maybe you can get them the couple key numbers they need for their internal report? Be creative.

5. Negotiate a New Commitment

When you have taken the first four steps, you need to negotiate an agreement on a new commitment. Make sure that your new commitment will create an outcome that is acceptable to your client. Then do everything in your power to ensure that you are able to keep your new commitment.


In sales (and in business) there are commitments that we cannot keep, despite our best intentions and our best efforts. Being a professional requires that we renegotiate these commitments, regardless of how small may seem. Follow these five steps to renegotiate your commitments.


1. Do you treat smaller commitments differently than larger, more meaningful commitments?

2. What does it mean when someone fails to keep the smaller, simpler commitments?

3. What is your obligation as a salesperson when you or your company is going to miss a commitment? Should it be different if it is larger commitment?

4. Do you believe your clients expect perfection? Or is it more likely that they expect you to be resourceful in dealing with achieving outcomes larger or small?

5. What does common courtesy and etiquette require of us when we know we are going to miss a commitment?

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on April 14, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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